Hello all you undulating sin weasels, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only 16-bit dating advice column on the Internet.
This week, we’re facing down some fears and confronting some hard choices. Is it an abusive relationship when your abuser has a mental illness? What about when your partner refuses to ever let go of a past mistake? And what’s the best way to go about handle building a relationship with a celebrity?
It’s time to enter the Konami code of love and get some extra lives. Let’s do this.
Hi Dr. NerdLove,
So, I have a... special situation.
I live in Japan and working the entertainment industry (for nerds). There’s this Japanese guy who I’ve come to really like. Problem is, he’s a popular actor who doesn’t have many gaps in his schedule. What gaps he does have, are usually filled with other plans. But, I don’t know his schedule unless I ask.
Here’s the problem: I really like him, and I want to spend more time with him, possibly eventually be his girlfriend. So I invite him to things he might have interest in. Maybe one thing a week? Usually, he can’t come, but I feel like I have to give as many chances as I have in order for him to even be able to come to one thing (drinks with friends and gaming are usually the excuse).
One of his good friends says I shouldn’t invite him so much because he’s a quiet person who runs away if an approach is too strong. On the other hand, his senior at his talent agency says I should just confess my feelings and make him notice me right away. I’m pretty sure he’s already aware of my feelings. He’s not avoiding me because of that—he just really does not like inviting people to things. He’s pretty famous for never having a girlfriend (though he’s not gay—he just really likes his nerdy hobbies and has never made making a girlfriend a priority), so him asking me out isn’t an option.
I should mention that when he is free he DOES come to what I invite him to. One time he even came for JUST AN HOUR to be with me and two other people. So once again, I’m not being avoided—he’s just extremely busy.
What do you think I should do? On the one hand, I could just be upfront and ask him out, but I’m scared he will run away. I could wait, but I also know he’s currently worrying about the fact that he needs to get married soon (early 30's), making me worry he’ll pick up another girl in the meantime.
It’s driving me nuts.
I know there’s a culture difference that you might not understand, but I’d at least like a second (or third) opinion. Should I be aggressive and keep inviting him? Or should I leave him alone for like a month?
Nuts for an Alien
There are a couple of issues at play here, NfaA. The first is how to approach starting a relationship with this guy. The second is: are you sure what this is what you actually want?
For the first part, let’s talk about the NerdLove Theory of Dogs and Cats. As a general rule of thumb, when you think about how people respond to being approached, you have your cats and you have your dogs.
Dogs, for the most part, are more open to a proactive style of approaching. They tend to appreciate a more direct, up front method. They love it when someone wants to come and give them attention and will often meet you at least half way. The more interested someone is in them, the more they’re interested in that person. A dog tends to get as revved up by someone else’s excitement as they do by their own interest.
Cats, on the other hand, hate that. Cats, even cats who love attention and crave affection, tend to run for the hills if someone’s too pushy and forward with them. The more you pursue a cat, the more they’re going to try to avoid you, because you’re freaking them out. This is why the best way to attract a cat is to put out your index finger and wait for them to come to you in their own time and at their own pace. The calmer and more patient you are, the more likely their curiosity is to override their worry about NEW PERSON AAAAAGH.
It sounds like your guy is a cat, NfaA. He may be intrigued enough to metaphorically curl up in your lap for ear scratches, but if you make too much of a fuss, he may freak out anyway. So the best thing you can do is put your metaphorical finger out there and wait for him to come sniff it.
In this case, your finger is making it clear you actually want to date him. You can’t take it for granted that he knows how you feel; if he’s never put any thought into dating, it may never occur to him that people think he’s actually attractive or might like him like that. You may very well be the first person — outside of fans, in any case, who don’t count — who he’d see expressing romantic or sexual interest in him.
Fortunately for you, there’s a cultural trope that helps you in this case — kokuhaku, or a lover’s confession. You may be aware of it, NfaA, but for the other readers: it’s the almost clichéd scene from Japanese pop culture where someone confesses his or her attraction to another person as a way of asking to start a relationship. However, all of those overblown moments aren’t just hacky ways of stirring up drama; it’s a very real part of dating in Japan. While Western relationships tend to grow organically, many — if not most — Japanese couples tend to have the Defining The Relationship talk first.
So in this case, instead of asking him to do stuff in hopes that it’s going to sink in that you maybe, kinda, sorta want to date, lay your cards on the table. Put it out there: you dig him as more than a friend and you’d like to pursue a relationship with him. It’ll be awkward and nerve-wracking, but at least it will ensure that everyone’s on the same page. Let him know you’re interested in dating and then… give him some space. Let him know the ball’s in his court and then let it drop. If he’s interested, he’ll come to you. If not, then you’ve got your answer.
But you should ask yourself just what kind of relationship you’re interested in. If he’s starting to make serious noises about needing to get married soon, then odds are that he’s going into any relationship with an eye towards the long-term. And if he’s looking towards marriage because he feels like he’s supposed to? Then he may be looking for an LTR, even though he may not want one.
And that’s even before you get into issues about whether you two are compatible. Attraction’s great, but incompatible lifestyles will sink even the most passionate relationship. The half-life of romantic love is between six months to a year; after that, it’s a lot harder to ignore the fact that his idea of a fun time is not leaving the apartment and yours is running around with friends.
But if you think that’s something you can work with… well, put your finger out, let the cat come sniff and then see if he wants you to scratch his ears.
Long time reader/lurker, first time mailer! Love your attitude to love and life so I thought I’d hit you up for advice for a dilemma I’m experiencing right now.
I’m currently married to my childhood sweetheart (let’s call her M) who I lost contact with for a number of years due to a bad relationship (got married young to a woman who was emotionally and physically abusive). M helped me through the divorce and was there for me when no one was there for me in a meaningful way, family included.
A relationship soon followed and, although going through a divorce was the worst time in my life and hit her pretty hard too, we made it through and feel stronger for it. Fast forward four years and I’m now 29 and we’ve been married for seven months (spur of the moment brought on by family illness). Although we do bicker and fight from time to time, we genuinely love each other more than anything and I want to spend the rest of my life with her.
Both of us suffer from mental health issues - M has anxiety and suicidal impulses that stem from an undiagnosed mental health issue. I’ve spoken to her about it a lot and she doesn’t want to turn herself into a zombie with medication. I fought with her about medication or therapy for a while but reluctantly agreed with her - she is the one dealing with her issues and I know I can’t force her to do something she doesn’t want to do. Ultimately, she’s been gradually getting better but it’s been a long uphill battle and she still struggles on a week by week basis.
Me on the other hand - I’m fairly anxious, both socially and generally. I also have irregular periods of depression that hit my self confidence and motivation pretty hard stemming from a number of issues too numerous to go into here. As a result I upset M because I don’t do chores or errands because I either cannot bring myself to do it (despite the fact I know I should) or I just plain forget (as I’m focusing on something else). Suffice to say, she doesn’t let me forget it.
My issue lies in the reactions we both have to our respective issues. When M is having a “bad head” day, I try my best to make her feel better and pick up the slack where possible and if I’m feeling ‘well’ (cleaning, cooking, getting her little gifts when money isn’t tight etc). I don’t feel like the same lenience is given to me and when I try to talk to her about my mental health or how stressed I am at work I always get a response that I’m not depressed/anxious or that her life is so much more stressful than mine. In the end I just stopped talking to her about how I feel.
I also get small negative comments that come down to her expectations of me that chip away at my self-confidence and I feel like I can’t do anything right. And, if I try to talk to her about the fact she’s doing this and that it makes me feel bad, she denies it and/or throws it back in my face. Case in point - she’s gone away this weekend to stay with a friend of ours and it’s been nice to have some space - I’ve tidied the house, run errands and had some time to relax as well - but despite all this, she got mad at me because she expected me to go food shopping.
I’m not perfect - I struggle with snappiness and, coming from a house with three younger brothers and a short-tempered father, I argue and raise my voice more than I should. I don’t know whether that’s me, the depression or both but I know I need to be more mindful of how I talk. I’ve tried my best to consciously keep calm in these discussions but I still end up being wrong. I can’t remember the last time something was “her fault”.
What do I do here? She makes me feel like garbage when I talk to her and I’m struggling to be happy. I want our marriage to work but I need her to understand that her comments hurt me, her expectations are misplaced at best and that she needs to cut me some slack as the pressure is killing me.
Thank you in advance and sorry for the long, rambling email!
Down But Not Out
Hey, DBNO? Your wife may have a mental illness, but that doesn’t excuse her from treating you like shit. It sucks that she has her “bad head days” but whatever issue she has going on doesn’t give her a pass on being an asshole to you or dragging your self-esteem into the mud.
Now, I get dealing with life with an undiagnosed mental illness. I lived with chronic depression for years before I finally got clued in and frankly, I was a raging dick to everyone around me. It was all born out of my own pain, sure, but the fact that I was hurting didn’t give me license to treat people like shit. That was ultimately my choice. A stupid choice, sure, but still a choice.
So it is with your wife. It sucks that she has whatever issue she’s dealing with. Hopefully therapy and medication is helping her get it under control. But there is no mental illness that forces someone to emotionally abuse their partner. And what she’s doing is abusive.
(Incidentally, I hate the argument of “well my life is so much more X than yours so yours doesn’t rate”. The fact that someone is busy/stressed/whatever doesn’t magically make you not busy/stressed/whatever, nor does it mean that your stress doesn’t bother you anymore.)
Relationships that succeed are the ones where couples come together as a team and ride out the hard times together. You aren’t just two individuals, you’re also a gestalt entity — two people who’ve formed a relationship Voltron, as it were. But that requires both of you working in tandem, supporting one another and giving support in turn. Not one person doing all the giving and the other doing all the taking.
While there might be some benefit in talking to a couple’s counselor and seeing if a third party can help blow open some lines of communication… the fact that you feel this bad after seven goddamn months of marriage is a fucking awful sign. Which is why I want you to game this out. How long are you willing to put up with this if nothing changes? A year? Two years? Five?
My suggestion? Make couple’s counseling an ultimatum: she goes with you or it’s over. If she’s willing to actually work at this and recognize that the things that she’s doing are hurting you, then maybe things can be saved. But if she won’t go, or won’t work on the relationship with you? Then it’s time to get the hell out. To quote the sage, it’ll be time to say: “I may love you, yeah, but I love me more.”
Hello Dr. NerdLove,
I have been reading all your posts and one of the latest ones on the abusive relationship resonated with something I am going through. I have been married for 9 years to my high school girlfriend. There was lot of drama with my folks as they were against her in many ways (lack of education, rude behavior etc). We got married and moved to states (we are first generation immigrants) and things on the surface were fine but internally she didn’t seem happy about anything happening around us.
Don’t get me wrong but she is very planned and organized person. We make sure that all financial decisions are discussed before they are made. All plans are made based on her thoughts and I am fine with that. But we always had fights with small things like the way my folks spoke to her etc. I also tried comforting her but it seems to help temporarily.
We started having major problems 3 years ago. I was at fault, I had an affair. Lets call her X. It started with X, who was my colleague, was in a unhappy relationship, i wanted to comfort her and one thing lead to another and we ended up sleeping together. X was married too, so after a lot of friction and talking we decided to go our own ways. The affair lasted couple of months.
My wife found out about it by a receipt when she was going through the trash, suspecting something was going on with me. All hell broke loose after she found out. I didn’t have the courage to confess, knowing that I was wrong. Things after that have gone from bad to worst.
It has been 3 years since that day and not one day has gone when X’s name isn’t called as an insult or passed on as a taunt. There isn’t any love or intimacy left in our relation and my wife openly admits that she doesn’t love me nor wants to do anything with me. The only reason she is with me is for the kids.
We fight every day on the same topic, slam doors on each other and the cycle repeats. I have proposed going to therapy but she doesn’t want to try. We fight about getting a divorce but next day we get into everyday work routine to then fight some more. I am tired and confused and was hoping you could help! I know it was my fault which caused this to blow up but I think we were never happy. I am to blame for this but how do i fix it?
Tired and confused
It’s time for the Chair Leg of Truth. I’m not gonna sugar coat it, TAC: your relationship is over. All you’ve got now is the shambling corpse of your marriage, a rotting husk of what you used to have.
Look, you fucked up. Bad. You know that, I know that, your wife knows that. But there’s a point where you need to accept there is no coming back from this. Affairs don’t have to be an automatic Relationship Extinction Event; many relationships can and have become stronger in the aftermath of an infidelity. But for that to happen, both parties have to want to make things work. You have to be willing to earn your wife’s forgiveness and trust again… but she also has to be willing to let you earn it. When she can’t or won’t? Well that’s how you get this toxic bullshit.
I don’t know if you’re sticking around out of some sense of guilt, or just the fear of accepting that if you leave, you’ll be The Bad Guy. But there is no fixing this, TaC. In fact, as it is, you’re both making things worse because your bullshit isn’t just affecting you, it’s affecting your kids.
Staying together “for the children” is a horrible idea. Trust me: having your kids grow up in a house where Mom and Dad are screaming, fighting and slamming doors is doing way the fuck more damage than if you two actually divorced like you should have three years ago.
The time to fix this was before your affair, when things were rough but you had yet to gut-shot the relationship. That didn’t happen. There was a small window of opportunity to change things in the aftermath of the affair, if you both were willing to try. That didn’t happen either.
The only reasonable option you’ve got left is to put two in the brain of this relationship zombie and put it in the ground where it belongs. You need to accept the facts and get divorced. You can’t make things right, but you can at least make things better for your kids.
Did you confess your love to your partner? Did your relationship survive an affair? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. 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 email@example.com 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 on the Dr. NerdLove podcast. His dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is available on Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.