Hello, Internet! Welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column where progress is measured in achievement unlocks.
This week we have a couple of interesting questions. One reader wants to know how to handle a tricky (and painful) living situation while another wants to know the best way to get busy. But as with many dating questions, the answers aren't always cut and dried.
Let's get it on...
So Dr. Nerdlove I have quite the predicament:
About four months ago I met this girl who happened to be a co-worker of mine, and after a series of unfortunate events (no infringement intended) we ended up dating. And we hit it off well. We spent almost every day together with her basically living with me at my then apartment for a month or so. We were both living in volatile situations with her being with an abusive Ex and me being with a shitty roommate, so after a month and a half we discussed getting an apartment together. We both agreed that it could be a good change of pace for us and started looking, but at around the same time things where I was living went really sour. So I ended up moving out and staying with various friends while she lived at her place. Anyways we continued apartment hunting and things started to change between us a little bit, but I thought it was nothing substantial, enough to cause any worry anyways.
So eventually at the end of may we found a beautiful apartment, and fell absolutely in love with it. We signed a 1 year lease. So we moved in and settled, and things were good for a bit. One thing I didn't mention up front is that she has a kid, which I didn't overly mind. The "baby-daddy" was around semi frequently and they had parted ways long ago so I thought I had nothing to worry about. (to which she assured me I didn't) They had always been friendly with each other and I didn't mind because I thought everything was going good, but she became distant after we moved in, and two weeks into moving she broke things off with me citing "she needed some space and couldn't handle a relationship".
But the twist is that she didn't need space because as soon as she broke up with me she moved baby daddy in (we live in a one bedroom) and couched me in the living room. They're together now, and have made it public they're an item. But honestly I don't know how to feel about everything, This guy I don't know is sleeping in the bedroom I help pay for and sleeping with her while I get to be upset, hurt and angry on the couch.
The worst part is this is someone I deeply cared for, and thought I could really build a future with (hence signing a year lease) But I was sorely mistaken, and now I don't know how good my judgement is for anything. I thought she was one of the best things to ever come into my life and now she's one of my biggest regrets. This is someone I told my deepest darkest secrets with, cried with when bad things happened, and talked to about anything. And now I feel extremely alone.
I'm in a really bad rut, and I feel like I'm about to break down, Dr. What do I do?
Stuck In The Middle
Holy crap Stuck, you don't do things half-way, do you?
Before we get too deep into what to do about this situation, it's important to understand just how you got there in the first place. This is going to seem a little harsh at first - and believe me, I sympathize with the shitty, shitty situation that you're in - but there're some important lessons to be learned here.
First and foremost: don't lose your head. It's easy to get caught up in the rush of a new relationship - especially if you don't have much experience with dating; your brain is literally being flooded with oxytocin and dopamine, lighting up the pleasure centers of your brain like a Daft Punk concert. As a result… well, it's kind of like being drunk. Everything about your partner is amazing, from the way she flips her hair to the way she bites her lip when she's thinking and you feel like you're bulletproof and you're in the middle of the kind of love story that gets turned into animated movies.
Unfortunately, it also means that you're barely thinking straight.
Like the guy who assumed everyone at the bar wanted to see his Miley Cyrus imitation after one too many vodka/Red Bulls, what you think is a great idea at the time is actually something that leaves the people around you cringing in horror. You may think you have it all under control and you're being perfectly level-headed but, in reality, you're at the "David Hasselhoff eating a hamburger off the floor" level of decision making.
Case in point: moving in together when you've only been dating for two and a half months. I realize that in the throes of passion, it seems perfectly logical - you're both needing a new place to live, you're already spending all this time together and hey, living together means it's going to be hot and cold running sex all day every day - but you don't actually know each other all that well.
At two months, you're still in the "won't fart in front of each other" stage. You're still functionally on your best behavior around one another. You haven't seen the "real" version of one another when you let your guard down and realize that your bad habits aren't cute and adorable but are actually kind of disgusting and horrifying to one another. This is the worst possible time to move in with someone you're dating. Moving in together is the ultimate stress-test of a relationship and if there're any cracks in the relationship, it's going to shatter the whole thing. Breaking up is painful enough; it's even worse when you're stuck in a lease with someone you used to date.
And here's the thing: the signs were there. I suspect you've done the same thing that many well-meaning people have done: you assumed that the problems in the relationship were from the stress of the big event coming up. I'm willing to bet you thought that as soon as you found the place and moved in, everything would go back to normal and you could get back to the blissful fantasy love-life you had beforehand. The sad fact is: that literally never happens.
And now your wonderful ex has taken the sucking chest-wound of the break-up and poured salt and lemon juice all over it by essentially throwing you out of the place that you help pay for and moving her new boyfriend in.
(Oh sweet Jeebus, please tell me he's at least paying a third of the rent. Don't tell me that you're subsidizing your own misery as he lives there rent-free. Lie to me if you have to.)
This in and of itself is huge dick move on her part - especially if she decided on this unilaterally- but now you're stuck in a potentially difficult legal situation as well.
And unfortunately, it may well take a lawyer to get you out of it. You need to get the hell out of there, Stuck… but it's going to be difficult to do so with your sanity and your credit rating intact. Depending on the details (including whether the lease is in your name, her name or both), the baby-daddy's living there might jeopardize your lease. Many landlords don't allow for roommates who aren't listed on the rental agreement and if you haven't officially added him to the document then your landlord might have cause to evict you.
In an ideal world, you could ask the two of them to leave and find a new roommate in the interim, but let's be honest: if she's being this much of an asshole, then the odds that she's going to do the polite thing and leave are around diddly-squat.
So there are two options and both are going to require that you have the law on your side.
The easiest answer is simply to talk to your landlord and see if they would be amenable to breaking the lease or having her boyfriend take over your portion of the lease. It doesn't hurt to ask and even corporate-managed rentals are known to make allowances for extenuating circumstances.
If you're determined to leave and the landlord won't let you off the lease, then it's time to consult a lawyer who specializes in tenant law. There're also tenant's rights groups who may be able to advise you on how to proceed and who to talk to. For example, you may well have standing to actually evict your roommates - especially if the new boyfriend isn't listed in the rental agreement. So, you need to gather as much information about the exact terms of your lease and the tenant laws in your state. It's not a simple process, but it can be done. However this is very much the nuclear option and you definitely need to talk to a lawyer before proceeding.
(Remember: Dr. NerdLove is not a doctor and he is most certainly not a lawyer).
In the meantime, though, you need to take care of yourself. Get out of the apartment as much as possible. Crash with friends if you possibly can. Spend time with your friends and family, people who will support you during this incredibly shitty time.
And do not stop paying your rent in some misguided attempt to get everyone kicked out. Getting evicted will fuck up your credit rating and make getting your next place more difficult.
Get the hell out of there. Your sanity is too important. Good luck, Stuck.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I'm a single nerdy lady who recently graduated from a university with honors. I'm also a virgin but not for any ideological reasons (I'm an atheist). I was a horny teenager but also a very careful one. My caution came from being an overachiever who would over-think everything. Despite knowing all the preventative measures that could be taken, I was deathly afraid of getting STDs and/or pregnant.
On top of that, I became very intimidated by boys once puberty hit. I ended up always making a fool of myself in front of guys I liked because I was socially tone-deaf. I still have that problem when it comes to cute guys but to a lesser degree. Being an average-looking girl who didn't care for make-up or fashion, I had to overcompensate for it in the personality department. But in all instances, I was either too shy/lazy to make a move or too unskillful in flirting. The rare times I approached a guy was disastrous. I was too insecure/desperate and he was scared away. This killed any of the little confidence I had with boys.
Disheartened by having zero romantic/sexual encounters in high school, I swore off boys in order to work on myself. I focused on cultivating my mind, developing my personality, and nourishing my friendships. Of course, I'm proud of myself for my academic accomplishments and I'm happy with who I am as a person. But my love of learning hasn't spared me from being sexually frustrated. I'm a little sad that I missed out on the sexual part of the 'college experience.' There were so many options in front of me and I blew it.
I have no practice in getting guys. None. I'm in a better place now because I've obtained a strong sense of self. I know what I want and what I don't want. I'm a bookworm who likes peace and quiet so I don't like going to clubs, parties or bars. Also, I'm not a drinker. I don't want to pretend to be anyone I'm not to make someone like me, including dumbing myself down or dressing in skimpy outfits.
I'm also worried about accidentally attracting attention from guys I'm not interested in. That's why I would like to have more power in the situation. To avoid any misunderstanding, I think it would be best if I approached a guy I was interested in. But I want to be more tactful in my approach than I was as a teenager.
It's annoying because there are so many things you have to account for when you're a female virgin. I just want to get past it so that I can move on to more and better sexual experiences. I don't require myself to wait until marriage or a committed relationship to have sex. Still, I would like to lose my virginity to a kind, patient and respectful man in order to have an enjoyable sexual experience (at least, as enjoyable as 'the first time' can be). I don't care if that means him being a virgin too and us both having a learning experience together. Besides, it's not like I'm a babe in arms.
I know for sure that I just want to avoid two types of guys: 1. the type who attaches 'purity' to 'virginity' and fetishizes me as a thing to conquer/corrupt and 2. the type who has no patience for a virgin because he's assuming I'll be boring in bed and too clingy. So, any advice on how to charm a man's pants off, so to speak? How do I navigate the hook-up scene to find a guy who'll be enlightened about virginity and understanding to my situation?
I'm gonna get to your question in a second, Sad Grad, but your letter actually brings up a broader point that I've wanted to mention.
(Well, two points. The second is to point out that you're about to get over 9000 "I volunteer as tribute!" comments.)
There's an ongoing meme about women and dating that's shown up here a few times: that women don't have "real" dating problems and that any woman who wants sex and/or a boyfriend merely has to present herself - rather like hailing a taxi - in order to find a man.
Of course, it ain't true for a multitude of reasons, not the least of which being there're plenty of women who don't get hit on all the time. The reason I bring it up is because this line of thinking continues the commodity model of sex that women are the "sexual gatekeepers" because they want it less and can find it more easily than men.
In reality: women want sex, even casual sex as much as men do. And - as SadGrad's letter tells us - they have the exact same concerns and anxieties that men do surrounding how to go about finding it. If we were to flip genders around, this letter would sound almost exactly like a large number of the letters I get from male virgins who worry about whether it's "too late" for them. Almost as if men and women were actually very similar when it comes to sex. Huh. Interesting.
Now to get to your letter, SG:
Your question is fairly similar in a lot of ways to Noob's from last week and the answer is very much the same: get involved in your passions. The best way to meet people you're going to be compatible with is to get involved with the things you already love in ways that get you out and meeting people. I'd also recommend giving online dating a try as a way of meeting people.
I realize that this will be intimidating when you start out - as you said, you tend to be a little on the shy side. But the great thing about meeting people this way is that it lets you proceed at your own pace. You'll have other things to focus on - those aforementioned passions - that will give you things in common and ways to ease yourself into conversation. Online dating gives you the chance to check guys out and approach them in a way that's less intimidating than trying to go up to a stranger and introduce yourself. It may still be anxiety-producing at first, but I promise: with a little practice it gets much easier.
Now as to how to find someone who's going to be respectful and understanding and isn't likely to be a complete asshat? The answer is fairly simple: you want to take a little time to get to know your partners… and that going on a date or two before deciding whether this is someone you think is worth hooking up with. Framing the interaction as a date helps create the expectation that there will be some activity, which will make it easier to turn from talking to sloppy make-out times. It doesn't have to be a formal affair of dinner, flowers and empty promises - just a couple outings where the two of you can talk, get to know each other and just feel each other out (and up) as you see fit, if the chemistry is there.
This will also give you a chance to see what sort of person he is. Watch how he talks about other women he knows. Watch how he interacts with waitstaff and baristas. See if he's going to be pushing for sex right away or if he's willing to let you set the pace.
These aren't going to let you know 100% that he's a good guy (as opposed to a Nice Guy TM), but it will help you cut down significantly on the asshole quotient. Just don't get so caught up in the desire to lose it that you're willing to overlook any warning signs of douchebaggery. You may have to try a few times before you find someone you actually want to sleep with, but that's how dating works in general.
And then when the time comes… you don't have to tell him that you're a virgin. You can just say that you haven't dated much or had much experience. And with some guys, it may be better not to tell - they may get performance anxiety about the "importance" of the event; this is actually almost as common a thing as guys who worry that you're going to imprint on them like a baby gosling. If you do tell him, then let him know that this isn't a big deal and you're looking to just get laid, and you wanted to sleep with him.
And then… relax and take things easy. The key to great sex - even as a virgin - isn't about knowing tricks like the Swirly-Go-Round or the Rusty Venture. It's about enthusiasm, communication and a willingness to listen to your partner and to learn.
Take some time, get to know the guys to weed out the asshats, and then take it all in stride and you'll be just fine, SG.
Have you ever been forced to live with an ex? Have stories about how you found someone to lose your virginity to? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments section, and we'll see you in two weeks with more of your 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 book Simplified Dating is available exclusively through Amazon. 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.