Hello all you orgasm manatees of damnation, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column to help you navigate the lootboxes of love.

This week, we’re diving into relationship surgery and stitching up your first time love woes. What do you do when you feel like your relationship is only okay? What about when your first love doesn’t want to date you but still wants to keep hooking up with you? How do you know if you’re commitment-phobic or just happy being single? And what about when your partner wants to control who you’re allowed to talk to?

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It’s time to come up to the lab and see what’s on the slab. Let’s do this.

Hi Dr. NL,

My current relationship is the first one I’ve had, so I don’t have much experience to draw from. I met my current GF and started dating her seriously about 2 years ago. We started living together 2 months into our relationship.

She is a really sweet and kind person, and we care about each other a lot. We get along very well, never argue, and enjoy many of the same hobbies. I was fairly sure that she would be the one I would spend the rest of my life with, but over the last 6 months I’m slowly changing my mind. I think the reason for my change in feelings boils down to 2 main things:

1) I don’t find her as physically attractive anymore.

This has nothing to do with her, she looks the same as she did when we first met. I know this makes me sound like a shallow douche, but my ideal body type is the conventional thin/petite while she is slightly chubby, but still within average. Initially this did not bother me, since everything was a new experience (I lost my virginity to her) and I didn’t care as much, but now that the newness wore off it is becoming a problem. Initially we would have sex 2-3x a week but now it is maybe twice a month, mainly because I never feel the urge to. My sex drive is still fine, since I still (preferably) masturbate to porn. When we do have sex I try to picture other more attractive women in my head to get me into the mood. She is not unattractive by any means, so a part or me is wondering if this is normal—do couples find each other less physically attractive over time when the newness wears off? Either way, I hate myself for feeling this way, and I don’t know if something like this can be compromised.

2) She doesn’t engage me on a conversational nor intellectual level.

I think it may be that I have a higher level of education, my nerdy personality, or that I just love learning and talking about random things, but we rarely have engaging conversations. For example, after a movie/show/podcast, playing a game, learning about some new technology/gadget, reading something in the news, etc, I like talking about them more than just on a superficial level. I bring up things like all the stupid plot holes in a movie, good/poor directing, what happens when certain things are deconstructed, how X would have an impact on the future, the psychology of why a person/character did that, etc, but I can never get a good back and forth conversation going with her. If I ask her what she thought of a movie, her reply is always “it was interesting.” We just never have good conversations about anything like I would have with my other friends. She loves listening to me talk about things though, so it’s not like I’m boring her with my nerdiness, she just doesn’t have anything to add besides the “I like the part where X happened.”

I’d be more than happy to talk about her interests, but she doesn’t really have her own hobbies, interests or her own friends she hangs out with. She enjoys watching me play video games and goes with me to hang out with my friends for things like board games and stuff, which I don’t mind at all, but because she doesn’t have her own things going on we rarely have anything to talk about. It feels like I’m living my life while she is living mine as well.

Despite this, our relationship is actually pretty good. If I were to rate our relationship I would say it is a 7/10. My question is, is it worth breaking this off and trying to find another one that may be even better? I honestly don’t know if that would be a good or stupid idea. Another thing that is bothering me is that because she is the only person that I have really dated, I feel like I’m missing out on a lot of other possibilities and experiences. How would I know if she is the right one if I never really dated anyone else? Maybe she is really a 4/10 or a 9/10, but I don’t know because I have no other reference to judge with? While she isn’t perfect, what if I don’t find anyone better? It’s not like I’m miserable in this relationship; I’m still more happy than unhappy... but I feel like I could be even more happy with someone else (maybe?).

She is a great person, and I would feel like an ass for hurting her. She puts in a lot of effort to make our relationship work, but the things that are bothering me are things she can’t control. A lot of posts here are about what to do in an abusive/toxic relationship, but I haven’t found good advice for what to do in an “ok” one.

Thanks,

Always So Sincere

Here’s my question for you, ASS: Are you just looking for permission to leave? Because the thing about relationships is you can leave at any time you want, for any reason. You don’t need some sort of casus belli to justify leaving. There’s no Relationship High Council that’s going to veto your decision to break up with your girlfriend because your reasons weren’t good enough. You’ve decided you want to end things is the only reason you need. People may disagree with your reasons or think that those reasons are dumb… but they don’t get veto power either.

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Now if the question is “can you leave her without consequences,” then that’s a different question entirely. To start with, the odds are near certain that you’re going to hurt her; it’s pretty much impossible to tell someone who cares for you that you don’t want to date them anymore and not hurt them. Similarly, people will judge you for why you broke up with her. Because yeah, while it seems like you have issues with compatibility here, the truth is that folks are going to look at this as you deciding that you want to “trade up” as it were, and frankly, they’re gonna side-eye the fuck out of you for it.

But that’s going to be part of the price of deciding whether you want to try pursuing a different relationship.

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A lot of what you’re dealing with are first relationship issues. The way you describe things, it sounds like you decided “will let me bang” was more important than chemistry, attraction and compatibility. And that’s not entirely surprising. When you’re young, sex papers over a lot of cracks and makes deal-breakers seem that much less important. But even the hottest and heaviest relationships start to slow down over time, and those other issues become much more important. Sexual attraction may get you started, but it’s those other areas of compatibility that keep you together.

This is exactly what you’re discovering. The fact that she doesn’t engage with things she enjoys the same way you do doesn’t mean that her way is any more or less valid; it just means that she has a different relationship with her interests than you. If that’s something you need in a relationship, then this may not be the relationship that’s right for you.

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It seems pretty clear to me that most of your interest in her was the fact that you were having sex. But once the novelty of having sex wore off and that new relationship energy started to fade away, you began to notice all the little things that you were able to ignore while you were fuck-drunk. And now that the fact that you’re getting laid has become just another part of your daily existence… well, you’re starting to wonder if you’re missing out and whether the grass actually is greener elsewhere.

So here’s some straight talk: No matter whether you’re dating your first girlfriend or your fiftieth, you’re always going to be making sacrifices. You’re going to be giving up the thrill of that new relationship energy that comes with getting to know somebody new. You’re going to be giving up the thrill of finding someone, flirting with them and the delicious tension that comes from the lead-up to the first date, the first kiss, the first time you sleep together and all the other firsts that come with new relationships.

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You’re also going to be giving up things that you might find in other relationships — this person may be more sexually adventurous, but that person is more in tune with your needs. This person is more intellectually curious but that person is more caring and nurturing.

The only benefit that comes from dating lots of people is that — if you’re self-aware — you start to learn what you do and don’t need in a relationship. But knowing what you need and what your deal-breakers are isn’t a guarantee that the next person you’re going to date is going to be the one who’s “right” for you.

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But that’s the thing about dating: There is nobody who’s “perfect” for you. There is no “one.” There are many people who are right for you, but every relationship is going to involve deciding that what this person or that person offers is so awesome that you’re willing to give up on the stuff you would be giving up.

I can’t tell you what to do. It sounds to me like you’re asking my permission to do something you already want to do and, honestly? That comes across as though you’re trying to find a way to feel less guilty about the fact that you’d be breaking up with her for what feels like shallow reasons. If you’re going to end things, then you need to own why you’re ending them. And if those reasons are enough to make you decide that it’s time for you to date someone else, then that’s ultimately all the reason you really need. Even if other folks think otherwise.

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If you’re not satisfied in this relationship and you don’t feel like working on these issues is going to fix things, then the kindest thing you can do is end it, quickly and cleanly. You can’t avoid hurting her, but you can avoid causing unnecessary pain. And if you really have checked out of this relationship, then sticking around is going to cause more pain — especially when she realizes how long you’ve been wanting out — than trying to put it off.

And as much as it may suck for her for you to leave, look at it this way: There’s someone out there who’s looking for somebody with her body, somebody who is as caring and as nurturing as her and who engages in her interests the way she prefers to.

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The kindest thing you can do is let her go so that she’s free to find him.

Hey Doc,

So I have this ex who broke up with me over 3 years ago. A moth after he broke up with me, we started hooking up (aka ”hanging out”).

At first he would come back to me after he ended a relationship with other girls, or if he was feeling down, but I wouldn’t always go back. I usually only “hung out” with him when we both had the time — and almost never when he was just “feeling down.”

But then he would string me along while he was in other relationships. At one point, he had been dating someone for 9+ months and I had no idea until she messaged me to threaten me for messing with her man. Eventually they broke up and he still wanted to “hang out.”

Now he’s in another relationship, almost 5 months now, and again, I didn’t know about until I saw her Instagram account.

Why does he keep doing this? It’s been 3+ years. He said many times he never wanted to lose me because I was his first love (he’s also my first love) and that he still loves me.

But if he actually loved me he wouldn’t be doing these things, right?

Just When I Think I’m Out

First of all, JWITIO, just because two people love each other doesn’t mean that they’re going to work out. Love, like sex, is an amazing thing that can propel us to amazing heights… but like the song says, sometimes love just ain’t enough. You may love somebody madly and passionately, but there will still be reasons why the two of you just can’t work.

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And in your ex’s case, it’s because he’s kind of a shit.

He’s doing this because, frankly, you keep going back to him. In fact, you keep going back despite the fact that he’s hidden that he’s been in relationships with other women. And while it’d be one thing if these were open relationships with people who’d agreed to non-monogamy, the fact that he hides it from them and from you should tell you everything you need to know about this guy.

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Here’s what you need to know: deeds, not words. He can say he doesn’t want to lose you all he wants. But his actions tell you that he isn’t willing to date you, nor is he willing to be honest with you. He wants to have access to you even while he’s dating other people, something that he knows you wouldn’t be cool with.

Dude wants to have his cake and fuck it too.

He may love you, but he sure as shit doesn’t respect you. You deserve better than this, JWITIO. Kick his ass to the curb and find somebody who doesn’t treat you like a human-shaped Fleshlight.

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Good luck.

Hi Doc,

I’ve been a fan of you’re column as it’s always pretty interesting to hear your viewpoints on things and I hope I could get an opinion on something. I’ve been dating this girl for about a year now and for the most part I’d say everything is great. The only problem that seems to constantly come up is over social media.

My girlfriend has a problem with me liking or following anyone of the opposite sex on social media (even if it’s a friend) and she’d constantly say how she hates all of my exes’ guts even though I don’t have contact with any of them any more. However when it comes to her social media she’s constantly liking and following all of her past flings and exes. She says it’s because all of her exes have mutual friends and she wants to save face in front of them but I just find it hypocritical.

Is this really an issue or am I overthinking things?

Please help,

Utterly Confused

There’s a genre of email I get on the regular that I call the “Everything BUT” letter. The letter writer will go on about how everything’s great… and then they come to the “but” that cancels out everything they just said.

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And in your case… well, someone call Sir Mix-a-Lot, because that’s a really big BUT that your girlfriend’s got going on, UC. The hypocrisy of her demanding that you cut ties with any and all women while staying in contact with her exes? That’s just tempered sewage frosting on a shit cake, UC. The real issue is the fact that she’s making these demands at all.

The fact that your girlfriend sees your having any contact with women as a problem isn’t a red flag, it’s a series of red flags. It’s more red flags than the running of the bulls in Pamplona. That’s either somebody who is so insecure that she sees every woman out there as a potential threat or someone who’s determined to control who you do and don’t talk to. Either way, it’s a massive warning sign that you need to get everloving fuck out.

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Kick this relationship to the curb with a quickness, UC. You’ll be much, much happier when you’re free of her.

Good luck.

Hello Dr.,

This is such a nebulous subject for me that even now I’m having trouble collecting my thoughts.

First and foremost let’s talk about me, I’m a late 20 something homosexual male with a full time job, an apartment with one roommate, and generally every creature comfort I want/need. I am an introvert by nature but when most people meet me they find me very extroverted as I’m good at holding conversation and have a wide enough breadth of knowledge to engage with most topics. I have had 5 boyfriends in my life thus far, none of which lasted more than 6 months, and it has been 6 years since my last relationship.

In the past couple years I have regularly found myself in the same position. I start talking to a guy, we hook up or go on a date (or both), we keep talking for a few weeks but then as they show more and more interest in wanting to spend time with me, I distance myself more and more because I feel I’m being smothered. Because of this I have resigned myself to the idea that I am just going to be single for the rest of my life, an idea I’m actually quite comfortable with, but at the same time I feel pressure from people in my life that a relationship is what I should be working towards.

Despite feeling comfortable with myself the pressure I feel about needing a relationship gets to me. It makes me question my reasoning for being single. Is it because of how many guys and friends have disappointed me, is it because I haven’t found Mr. “Right,” is it because I’m alienating guys by telling myself that the single life is for me? I don’t know.

To add to this I can’t even maintain guys to hook up with because again, I feel smothered. Ideally I’d only see them every 3-6 weeks which nobody has been okay with so I endlessly “go through” guys and I never stay connected with the same one for too long.

Am I phobic of intimacy? Is that a thing?

Your thoughts are appreciated,

-Feeling Conflicted

Are you resigned to being single, FC, or do you prefer it?

We live in a culture that tends to treat relationships as the end goal for everyone and that being single is a problem that needs to be solved. But the truth is that many people like not having committed romantic relationships. Some folks are solitary, some folks have all their needs met through friends and family, and some folks do best with a series of short-term relationships instead of wanting one that lasts until one of you dies in the saddle. And that’s fine.

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Now, if this relationship pattern of yours bothers you, then the best thing you could do would be to talk to a counselor or therapist and see about working through any potential fears of commitment. But if you like having your independence, you have your emotional and social needs met and you’re generally satisfied with your life, then shit, dude, do your thing!

And as an aside: It sounds like you might want to consider a long-distance relationship. This way, you have the companionship and emotional intimacy of a committed relationship but you only see one another every few weeks to months.

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Good luck.


Did you leave a relationship for reasons other people didn’t approve of? Do you prefer being single to being in a relationship? Share your story in the comments below and we’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.

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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 doc@doctornerdlove.com and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.

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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.

He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove.