Hello all you Internet sexbuckets of frottage, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column to be ported to the SNES Classic. This week, we’re facing some difficult situations, asking hard questions and delivering some tough love. When your wedding is just weeks away, how do you know if what you’re feeling is simple cold feet or something more? What do you do about that nagging feeling that maybe, just maybe, your BFF deliberately sabotaged your relationship?
It’s time to gird your loins and insert coins. Let’s do this.
Last year, I asked my girlfriend to marry me after we had been seeing each other for almost 2 years. It was one of the happiest moments in my life when she said yes. But now, it’s almost a month until the wedding and I’m wondering if we should be getting married at all.
For starters, she has severe anxiety and can be bipolar, and I have depression. Not to say that our disorders are the cause of our problems, but they certainly add fuel to the fire. Our fights usually end up with her yelling at me and then I shut down because I feel I’ve let her down because I couldn’t solve her problem, which is partly why I decided to pop the question in the first place. She lives in a semi-overbearing family situation where she is still treated like a teenager despite the fact she’s 25.
So I wanted to save her from a life where she’s not allowed to make her own decisions.
Back on topic, we’ve been fighting more and more the closer we get to the day, and I don’t know if maybe I’m just getting drained from her constant aggravated attitude caused by both our families and friends (both have been less than helpful in their own way despite her parents footing the bill) and I don’t have the patience to deal with it like I used to when we first started dating. Our sex life has dwindled to about once or twice a month, if that.
Is this normal? Are we just experiencing wedding blues? Am I right to be feeling cold feet like this? Would things get better after the wedding? There’s already so much time and money spent into this, it’d be a disaster to call things off now. I’m terrified and I don’t know what to do.
Frozen in Fear
OK FIF, I’m not going to pull any punches. Do not get married. Call off the wedding right fucking now.
What you’re feeling isn’t cold feet. Cold feet is the “OK, I want to do this, but what if I’m wrong? What if I screw this up? What if love isn’t really forever and how do we make this work if it isn’t?” Those are all perfectly normal jitters that come with not wanting to screw up an amazing relationship.
What *you* have is “I don’t think I want to do this but I feel like I have to now because of all the expectations and sunk costs,” which is an entirely different fucking situation. You’re not feeling nerves so much as the giant blaring red alerts telling you that yes, marrying your girlfriend will be a very fucking bad idea.
Here’s the thing: you’re getting married for the wrong reasons and with the wrong expectations. Marriage is a commitment, something that says “I am prepared to spend my life with you because you are my partner in all things.” It is something that you do with someone who complements your life and improves it in such a way that you’re ready to have a conversation with them that will last for the next 20, 30 or 40 years.
Marrying someone to “save her” is a recipe for disaster, doubly so when your relationship is already on the rocks. You can’t “save” another person, especially when her issues go beyond basic relationship woes. You aren’t a psychiatrist. You aren’t child protective services and she’s not a minor. You are not a cop or a doctor or anyone who is trained and in a position to help. What you are is a well-meaning boyfriend with more on his plate than he can handle. All this is going to do is compound your issues. Misery shared is misery squared.
The fact that you are fighting *regularly* and your fights end with you just shutting down instead of resolving things or addressing the cause of the fight - which, in fairness, may be unresolvable - does not bode well for your relationship’s long-term potential in general. However, I will guaran-goddamn-tee you that this isn’t because of the wedding, nor will marriage fix things. Nothing will be different after the wedding; you will be the exact same people you were, with the exact same problems you’ve had before. The only difference is that it will be much harder, much more painful and much more expensive to end the relationship than it is now. Before the wedding, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. After the wedding it will be awkward, uncomfortable and involve both lawyers and the state.
And at your core, you know this. Your friends and family know this. This is why they’re being less than helpful: they know damn good and well that this is a bad idea, but they don’t feel like they can say anything if you two are determined to go through with it. And that’s why things are getting worse.
You need to call off the wedding. Yeah, a lot of time and money has been spent. Some of it you can get back. Some you will never get back. But paying that cost now would be cheap compared to the time, emotional toll and, yes, money, it will cost you if you go through with it.
I have seen many, many couples go through with weddings despite misgivings and red flags, under the assumption that things would “get better after the wedding” or that they had come too far to back out now. Every single one of them wishes they had called it off, even right up to the moment they were walking down the aisle. You have a month. It’s late in the game, but it’s not TOO late.
Call it off. At least then you can address the issues of your relationship and whether it will (or should) continue without the complications of a marriage on top of it.
I’m not gonna lie, I have no idea what the question I need to ask is, but everything about my situation feels wrong. Several months ago, my boyfriend (now ex) and I started having troubles in our relationship. He was not very clear at all about what he felt even though I tried really hard to be open and understanding about it. Around this same time, an acquaintance of his - we’ll call her E - moved into town and began working with him. I had met her before, and while she wasn’t really my kind of person, I didn’t have a problem with her. The moment she showed up in town, he began seeing her all the time, in and out of work. Sometimes they would invite me but it was terrible because I would be the third wheel. He started being more concerned about his appearance and going out of his way to see her.
A little extra background, I trusted him 100% and still do. We had been together for about a year and a half at this point. I do not think he was physically cheating on me. E also had a long term relationship but her boyfriend was across the country and rarely around. During all of this, I was working 60 hour weeks and dealing with being in and out of the hospital so it was a shit show.
I have always been very self conscious, I was the chubby weird kid in high school and I’m still coming to terms with who I want to be today and pushing past all the past stuff. I talked to boyfriend about the fact that his and E’s relationship made me super uncomfortable. He assured me he had no feelings for her at all and we both agreed it was probably me just being jealous. I decided at that point, I would try to be her friend, hoping that maybe this would help my insecure feelings and make everything less weird.
A few months go by and boyfriend and I get into a huge fight that ends in a kinda sorta break up but we weren’t entirely sure that’s where we wanted to go with it. We knew that a lot of our issues were just personal issues that we needed to deal with on our own. During this, E is pretty much our only friend and the person we would both go to for advice. She immediately told me I should just leave him for good and telling me that I was miserable. She was adamant that I had to end things with him and became extremely passive aggressive if I disagreed, with stuff like “Well if you want to be miserable...” and other similar bullshit.
He and I tried to work things out and we made it really far honestly, we wanted to break and reconsider our relationship in a few months when we had time to really do our own thing. Within a week of this he suddenly decides he never wants to see me again. E stops talking to me as much and begins to see my ex boyfriend almost non stop. I was annoyed at first but they had been friends first, he and I weren’t together, why shouldn’t they hang out a lot.
Except she seemed to make a point of letting me know they were together. She had always preferred going to his house, but suddenly she wanted him at her apartment every time they met (which was a building over from mine so I would see when he was there). I’m still trying really hard not to be the jealous suspicious girl, but shit smells a little fishy. I tried seeing her a few more times hoping that maybe that would help, but she treated me like I was a piece of shit. I tell my mom everything and she really got me thinking about everything with E. E knew her relationship with my boyfriend made me uncomfortable, she encouraged me to break up with him, she treated me like crap as soon as we were broken up.
I talked to ex boyfriend about everything and he seemed to know that she was mean and that his relationship with her was odd, but he’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. But it really seems like E may have been actively trying to break us up and mess with me. I totally understand that he was ultimately the issue because if she was trying to break us up, he let her influence him. He is not off the hook for whatever the hell was going on. But now, he and I are trying to mend our friendship and possibly look at getting back together, but I have no idea what to do about E. I would never want to be that controlling, jealous girlfriend (or friend even), but at the same time, I think this girl is trouble.
Am I just being paranoid about this girl? If he and I do try to get back together should I tell him he can’t be friends with her in the way he had been before? Should I even give him a chance if he knows she’s mean but still chooses to be friends with her?
Friend In Need
OK, FiN, I don’t know how to break this to you but… your boyfriend was almost certainly cheating on you with E. And if he wasn’t at the moment, then the groundwork was being laid, right before E was.
I want to call your attention back to this part of your letter:
The moment she showed up in town, he began seeing her all the time, in and out of work. Sometimes they would invite me but it was terrible because I would be the third wheel. He started being more concerned about his appearance and going out of his way to see her.
This right here? This is one giant-ass blinking indicator that shit was going down. The sudden obsession with his appearance is a classic warning. We have a tendency to settle in relationships; after all, we’re not in attract mode anymore. We’re happily ensconced in a relationship and so we let things slide just a little. We’re not going to the gym with the same vigor. We don’t dress quite as sharp as we used to and we’re willing to be a bit less on point with our grooming. So when somebody suddenly decides it’s time to start snazzing things up again, it’s reason to be cautious. This doesn’t mean that your partner’s on the prowl - it could just as easily be that they didn’t like what they saw when they looked in the mirror - but it’s something to pay attention to.
The same goes for his spending time with her outside of work. In and of itself, that isn’t a bad thing. People have friendships with their coworkers. And despite what pop-culture tells us, we’re perfectly capable of having friends of any gender, even with people we’re attracted to.
But the combination of those factors, plus the fact that he was making his girlfriend feel like the third wheel when you all hung out? One is happenstance. Two is coincidence. Three is enemy action. And considering how E has behaved? That sounds like exactly what went down here.
My question is this: did he jump or was he pushed? Did your boyfriend’s breakup with you result purely from E’s machinations, or was this as much his getting caught up in the thrill of the new and novel and E was giving him the excuse he needed to pull the trigger on something he already wanted to do? As tempting as it is to put all the blame on E - and trust me, it sounds like she deserves a lot - it takes two to tango.
Now, as I’ve said before: my opinions on monogamy and cheating are nuanced. I believe that some affairs can be forgiven and others simply can’t. If you’re going to consider getting back together with your boyfriend, you’re going to need to get some answers to some unpleasant questions. Because right now, I don’t think you’re getting the full story from your ex. Maybe it was a crush/office flirtation with a Machiavelli who engineered your breakup… or maybe it was an affair that ultimately became the final straw for your relationship.
If you want to see about giving him a second chance - and that is one giant goddamn if - then you need some honest answers from your ex about what went down with between him and E. Then and only then can you actually start to decide whether or not it’s worth trying to work things out again. And you’re going to want to think long and hard about that because if he was telling you that you were being irrational and jealous while he was banging her (or making plans to), then it’s time to hop the Nope Train to Fuck-This-Shit-ville.
If you do want to give your relationship another try, then he’s going to have to ditch E as a sign of good faith. People can have their own friends in a relationship; in fact, I highly recommend it. But someone who’s been as instrumental in your break-up as E has - whether instigator or not - is trouble looking for a place to happen.
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 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 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.