Ask Dr. NerdLove: Torn Between Two Lovers

Once again, we’ve got a letter that’s a bit longer than usual for an Ask Dr. NerdLove, yet not QUITE long enough for a Post Mortem. Even so, as the writer says, it’s a bit of a twisty tale, so we’ll be taking it on in Post-Mortem fashion. Because sometimes you need to encounter the Chair Leg of Truth.

Here we… go!

Dear Doc,

I’m telling you right from the get go, mine is a long and complicated story. 

It starts about a year ago, when I met this amazing girl (let’s call her M), who goes to college with me. We had a few friends in common and met several times at parties and classes, and soon started hanging out together. 

She was (still is, actually) in a serious relationship so I didn’t make any moves even if I found her cute and we had an undoubtable chemistry.

English Major Peeve: “we had undeniable chemistry”. Not “an undoubtable.” Sorry. Carry on.

Plus, she is a really gorgeous girl and kinda out of my league, also considering the fact that I’m a 22 years old student who lives with roommates, doesn’t have a car and is always pretty broke and her boyfriend is a 30 years old lawyer (she’s 22 too). I mean, let’s be realistic.

First of all: lots of people live with roommates, especially at your age. You’re in college. It’s part of the whole adventure of being a college student: learning how to live with people you’re not related to or sleeping with. Second of all, not having a car or much money isn’t always a disqualifier. To quote Kevin Bacon:

Being a fucking waiter with no money, not a lot of drugs, just a mattress on the floor, and still being able to pull chicks. That’s when you separate the men from the boys.

Worry less about your material possessions and more about becoming an interesting, charming and funny person.

So, after a couple of months, I decide that I don’t have a shot, she’s with someone else and I have to put my crush to rest, even if it’s hard. I wasn’t doing too bad with girls at the time: I had a couple of casual, not serious relationship and I was okay with not having a girlfriend. 

The problem is… after some time I realize I’m falling for M. I mean really, really falling for her: she seems absolutely perfect for me, we share interests, have the same sense of humor, almost the same opinions about everything. She seems THE ONE and I have to admit to myself that it’s not just a crush that can go away, it’s fucking love, and I’ve got to do something about it. 

Hoo boy.

I stop seeing other girls and decide that I must go for it. So I take her out one afternoon after class and I’m about to tell her how I feel when…

Wait for it….

She anticipates me. 

Wait for it….

She tells me that she’s attracted to me and that she’s starting to feel something for me.

Wait for iiiiiiit…

But also that she wants it to work with his boyfriend.

This right here should be a BIG RED FLASHING SIGN about how things are going to go… which is to say, badly. For you.

She’s committed to staying with him, despite the fact that she admits feeling something for me. In her mind, she can control it and she’s allowed to feel something for someone else, while being in a relationship that has more value to her (god, I hope I explained myself clearly enough, English is not my first language). 

A few things.

First: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: monogamy only means that you’re not sleeping with other people; it doesn’t mean that you don’t want to. It’s completely normal to have an attraction or crush to someone other than your partner – that’s just part of having gonads. It’s how you act that makes the difference between being monogamous, ethically non-monogamous or a cheating piece of shit1.

Second: She’s laying the groundwork for what’s going to happen. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

When I found out how she felt about me, that’s pretty much all I heard. At this point, I could not see what was going to be in our way and why. I explain to her how I feel, without the “Love” part: I don’t want to freak her out, so I just tell her that I feel something too and I want us to be together. 

Not something I would’ve recommended, honestly, but hey, at least you said something. Now at least you got your answer. But it’s this next part that’s the problem.

Obviously, I want her to end it with her boyfriend and seeing how it works between us. She says she can’t. So, from my prospective and since I really think I’m in love with her, I can’t stay friends or anything else: basically, I tell her can’t see her anymore unless we’re gonna be together, and she answers that she understands. 

This is the best thing you could have done here.


Oh shit.

… a couple of days later, something happens. We miss each other too much, we go out and we kiss. 

And that’s what’s being going on ever since, for the last year. I’m in love with her, she seems to be really into me (she wouldn’t admit it’s love),

Yeaaaaah, about that…

we secretly date even if she’s still with the boyfriend, we frequently kiss, we had sex TWO TIMES IN ONE YEAR 

I’m not sure whether this is something you’re bragging about with the caps or it’s a matter of frustration.

(it makes her feel more guilty than just making out, and I kinda see her point).

And yet.

She hides from everyone what’s going on except for two really close friends of ours and generally seems pretty relaxed about the situation, even if she does recognize the fact that it’s bad.

No shit it’s bad.

Look, amigo, I’m not going to mince words here. By all available evidence, your girl is a cheating piece of shit. She’s (presumably) lying to her boyfriend – with whom she says she wants to make it work; a relationship that, in her words, she values more than yours – and fooling around with you. She may feel guilty about it, but not enough to either a) end it with her boyfriend or b) end it with you. These are not signs of a quality relationship for either of you.

Now I’ll be fair: we don’t know the details of her relationship with her boyfriend; for all we know, she may have permission to step out on occasion and have a little fun. Hell, it could well be that he’s into cuckolding and she’s running back to tell him all the dirty details about every single thing the two of you did because this excites him and leads to amazing bouncing-off-the-walls porn-star sex.

But I doubt it.

I adore her, I really do. I think I’m supposed to be with this girl and I love every single minute we spend together, but… when we say goodbye and she goes to her real, actual boyfriend I die a little inside. 

And the fact is… that I don’t wanna leave her, I don’t want to give up this, even if, at times, it makes me miserable. I always try to look around for girls and one time, during this year, I even thought I could date another girl and find someone as good as she is for me… but I came to the realization that nobody is gonna be enough, and that I want anybody else. When somebody thinks he’s found his soulmate, he doesn’t just give up. 

How can I convince her to finally end it with the boyfriend she’s been cheating on for more than a year, and be with me for real?

whats wrong

OK, WW, it’s time for some straight talk and unpleasant truths.

First of all: How do you convince her to end it with her boyfriend? Well… you don’t. The fact of the matter is, she has no reason to. As far as she’s concerned, she’s getting the best of both worlds: her crush on you and her relationship with her boyfriend. Why, exactly, should she be giving any of it up? After all, she knows damn good and well that you’re not going anywhere any time soon.

Let’s be realistic here, WW: you’ve been sneaking around behind his back for a year. This has been more than enough time for her to make up her mind between him or you. And she’s chosen… both of you. If you want her for yourself, you have to make a stand: she can’t have both you and her boyfriend. It’s one or the other. And if she chooses him (and she most likely will) then you have to follow through with it. Full nuclear option. No contact at all. Erase her emails, delete her number from your phone and all of her texts. Defriend her on Facebook, unfollow on Twitter, unlink on LinkedIn, all of it. Otherwise… why should she decide? If you just make a fuss about it and then come on back, all that’s going to happen is that she’s going to continue on dating her boyfriend and having fun with her piece on the side.

Because she’s a cheating piece of shit.

I hate to keep saying it, but it’s true.

There could be any number of reasons why she hasn’t done the honorable thing and either kicked one of you to the curb, or to come clean to her boyfriend and asked for permission to open the relationship before things went too far. She’s young and she may think she can have it both ways without consequence. She may be staying with her boyfriend because she likes the opportunities that dating a 30 year old lawyer can bring. She may well be polyamorous but is too inexperienced or confident to be open about it. Or she may just like the naughty thrill that comes with sneaking around with you.

Regardless of her reasons, the fact of the matter is, she’s lying to somebody. Either she’s lying to him or she’s lying to you. Neither of these indicates that this is someone you should be thinking of as long-term relationship potential.

You on the other hand are so lovestruck that you can’t see that this is an unhealthy situation for you.  I’m sorry to tell you that you have a nasty case of Oneitis. She may be as wonderful as you say, but the fact of the matter is, this relationship is not. Now, you’re both young. She might grow out of this and mature into someone who can be honest – either about what she wants, or to the people she’s supposedly committed to or the one she says she has feelings for.

It sucks, I realize. I sympathize, I really do, and I understand how you feel as though she is The One with capital letters and cartoon cherubs shooting cutsey arrows at you. But this is because you’re young and caught up in the intoxicating drama of it all and the little hints that maybe, just maybe things will go your way if you hold out long enough. Instead, all you’re doing is putting yourself in the direct path of an oncoming train.

Do yourself a favor.

Get out of the way.

Break it off with her.

Good luck.


  1. hat tip to Dan Savage []