Hey Dr. NerdLove,
I’m a 21 year old guy from the UK and I’ve been reading your site for about a year and a half. During that time I’m happy to say I’ve made some great improvements to my life; I’ve become conscious about my diet and started working out with a friend, have been building my confidence and have started dressing much better than ever. Unfortunately, I’ve hit a wall with women because I’m not comfortable talking about sexual subjects. At all. With anyone. I even find it difficult to talk about hot celebrities with my guy friends, that’s how bad we’re talking. I should be specific here and point out that I’m not (to the best of my knowledge) insecure about my sexuality. I used to be but after reading up and becoming more educated I’ve grown comfortable and believe, as far as mentality goes, I’m secure in my sexuality, I don’t find myself worried about any thoughts or fantasies I have and hearing other people talk about sex doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable, it’s strictly me voicing opinions and thoughts that I struggle with.
For some context I was generally a loner when I grew up, I’m an introvert so I’ve always been the most comfortable in my own imagination. In primary school I only really had about three friends and my best friend had autism (I don’t hold that against him, he’s a great guy) so it wasn’t really much of a talkative social group to grow up in. At high school I had it pretty rough, I was bullied a great deal by a great many people, both the usual variety, and stuff like girls fake flirting/touching me because they knew it would make me uncomfortable. I should also point out I was a late bloomer puberty wise, I only really started getting interested in girls when I was 14, and most of my friends started at around 12, so I was mostly alone in the dark when they started talking about the girls in class. I eventually fell in with a new group of friends after a few years but by then I already had a pretty toxic personality, I’d decided that crushing any thoughts or feelings I had was better for me given how I’d been treated. I used to hate seeing other guys stress or worry about impressing girls and thought I was superior for rising above that and being alone, even when I had a fairly well known crush on one of the girls in class.
Needless to say this resulted in me never really getting comfortable talking about sex or girls, and now even though I’m making real progress with other aspects of my life this hang up is a real problem. It is impossible for me to flirt or even give a compliment to a girl, and I don’t know what to do. I’ve considered online dating but I think this will just cut out the approaching angle and leave me unable to flirt or be sexual on a date, after all how am I supposed to be flirtatious with a girl when I feel awkward telling my friends how hot Emilia Clarke is? So, any advice to help me build my comfort and ease myself into talking about sex? I’d appreciate any help or advice you had.
Let me ask you something, TB: what, specifically is it about sex that causes the hang-up? Is it that you feel like one of the assholes who bullied you or the showboaters who were bullshitting about the sex they clearly weren’t having? Is it a case of you don’t feel like you have the vocabulary to talk about it? Are you worried about being judged on the opinions you have? Maybe it’s a case of worrying that you’ll come across like Steve Carell in The Forty Year Old Virgin? Or do you not feel like you have the right to express those feelings after you spent so much time trying to pretend you didn’t have them?
If your guy friends are, say, talking about hot celebrities, do you just clam up because you don’t know what to say? Or is there more of an anxiety-response; you feel your throat close and your heart start racing while everybody else is talking about so-and-so’s boobs? Are you able to say “no, you’re right, she is hot?” Or do you just try to avoid the topic altogether? If it’s a really deep-seated issue, then you might want to talk to a therapist in your area. A sex-positive therapist can help you work through feelings of worthlessness or drill down to the source better than I can – after all, Doctor NerdLove is not a real doctor.
It may help, when you’re among your friends, to make small advances and contributions to the conversation. You don’t have to go into why you think Emilia Clarke is sex on toast, but just a “yeah, she’s hot” or “Nah, I really like Kat Dennings” or something might be enough to ease you in. You don’t need details, you don’t need to justify things; something as simple as “Yeah, I think she’s cute” or “She looked great in X” can be enough to help you feel like it’s at least possible.
Or it could just be that you’re the sort of person who’s not comfortable talking about sex in general and that’s just part of who you are. If that’s the case, you may be better to just accept it and roll with it. You don’t have to be going verbally gaga over a great pair of norks to fit in.
At the same time: I think you’re overestimating how much flirting needs to be sexual. While yes, some flirting can be hot and heavy, you can talk with attractive women, even signal your interest without having to be explicitly sexual about it. If you watch, say, The Flash, you can see an example of guys flirting – even getting girlfriends – without so much as talking about sex or breaking Standards and Practices. And even if you’re a little awkward when it comes to, say, going for the kiss or asking if she wants to take it further… well, a lot of women actually find that endearing. There’s a reason the term “adorkable” exists after all.
I think a lot of this may simply be a matter of becoming comfortable with the idea of being a sexual person and having a right to those feelings and desires. I think the more you get distance between you and the person you used to be – and you have to let that be your past, not the ghost that keeps haunting you – the more at ease you’ll feel. You may never be the Voltaire of dirty talk… but you don’t need to be, either.
Dear Dr NerdLove.
I’ve been seeing this guy since last October. We spend almost every day together, he came to Christmas with my family, and we recently crossed the “I love you” bridge. For some reason, he’s not wanting to commit. We basically are in a relationship right now, but the idea of putting a label on it makes him uncomfortable. He says that he’s just not ready to take that step, but it confuses me because it literally wouldn’t change anything except for how we introduce each other. I still have to say “This is my friend _______” when I bring him around new people.
All of my friends are telling me that I need to tell him to man up and acknowledge that we’re dating, but I’m not sure how that would go. He’s kind of like a little wild animal. If you move too fast, he gets skittish. I also think he’s got a case of FOMO. The idea of being exclusive, even though we pretty much are due to how much time we spend together, makes him nervous. Please, I’d really like some outside perspective. I’m head over heels for him and he’s wonderful to me. I just want to know if I’m overlooking something or deluding myself.
-Caught in Limbo
Have you asked him why he’s uncomfortable with having the Defining The Relationship talk, CiL? You say it’s a case of FOMO, but has he expressed in words, that he’s got this nagging fear surrounding exclusivity? Or is it just something that seems to fit?
The best thing you can do is have a sit-down with him and – making it clear that you’re not pressuring him into anything or that he needs to decide things now – walk through what it is he thinks a label would do to your relationship vs. what you see happening. It may be that he’s worried that making your relationship Facebook official (or what-have-you) will lead to pressure to kick it to the next level after that and he’ll need to start shopping for a ring. Or maybe you’re right and he sees keeping things label-free as a way of having the “option” of playing the field, even if he has no intention of doing so. Some people feel as though they need to have the possibility available to them as a “just in case”, like a dry drunk keeping a bottle of vodka in the freezer.
But the only way to know is if the two of you sit down and hash out exactly what the issue is.
And who knows. Maybe he really is like the dating equivalent of a deer and a loud noise about being boyfriend and girlfriend will send him fleeing to the hills. If that’s the case, then you are going to have to decide about how you feel about labels. Are you willing to sit there, patiently, until he feels comfortable enough to step into it himself? Or is this going to be a dealbreaker?
I can’t answer that one for you. It’s going to have to be up to you CiL.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
First off, thank you for your blog, I really enjoy it. Long time reader and you’re the only dating adviser I’ve come across that I agree with 100%.
I am currently in a long term relationship with a great girl. She has many guy friends whom I’ve met. She shares just about everything with me. She and I both were in long marriages that ended up being nasty divorces. I have repaired my relationship with my son’s mother, but it took a lot of work on both of us to get there. My girlfriend envies that and hopes one day she can have the same with her children’s father. Unfortunately, he is a narcissist with a lot of money, and I don’t see it happening. Otherwise, I support her and listen to her in every situation, don’t offer a way to fix, unless she asks me what I thought about it.
Back to the original question. She met a guy 4 years ago, 2 dates, no connection. Decided better off friends. Didn’t even kiss. Said she considered him a best friend, since he was there for her through the nasty divorce. He knows about me and our relationship. He began texting her a lot. Even calling on some mornings at 6:30 AM while I am having an adult sleepover at her house. She assured me that it’s nothing. She says she asked him to chill out. To me, I think it’s disrespectful to her and to our relationship for him to contact her while we are together. Fast forward, he had recently dated a friend of mine and was mean to her. I told my GF and she confronted him and he denied even knowing the girl. I showed the proof from my friend. He still denied. Two weeks later, he finally came clean. This really ticked my GF off. And she said she was going to be more cautious with her friendship with him.
I haven’t heard much about him after that. Then this past weekend, I was pairing her phone with her new vehicle at her request. While doing so he was texting her, and my curious self decided to look and they had been texting all weekend. Nothing flirty or anything, just conversing. But it seemed like it was times that I had stepped away, as we were together all weekend. Kind of like trying to keep me from knowing (in my mind at least) This made me sick to my stomach. She said I was reading too much into it. If you meet him you would see he’s not that bad of a friend. He was my best friend for over 4 years etc.
I, of course am ok and have met many of her guy friends. Not this one. And I would probably be ok if she would have alerted me that she has reconciled the friendship. I spoke with many of my female friends, and they also think it’s disrespectful to me, her, and our relationship, but that’s all on her to handle.
My problem is I don’t handle people that lie well, especially people that are given an opportunity to come clean, and especially when it’s done to someone I care about.
To me it looks like she is hiding this from me at the cost of not hurting my feelings. He’s asked her out for drinks. She didn’t respond. But she has told me she does miss hanging out with him, but is very cautious of the friendship, and if she wants to go out and have drinks with a guy friend, she should be able to.
I know this has triggered some of my past insecurities. And i of course do not want to ruin this relationship.
What are your thoughts, or advice
Out Of Line?
Before I get too into this, OOL: dude sounds a little sketchy. I don’t think he’s trying to be Mr. Steal Yo Girl, but he doesn’t seem like the greatest of dudes either – what with the treating your friend like shit and lying about it and all. So I don’t blame you about not being cool with the guy.
At the same time however: you do have to trust your girlfriend to manage her own affairs and handle her own friendships. Yeah, it’s a little uncool that she didn’t give you the heads up that she’s rekindling a friendship with him, it ultimately is her business. You’re her boyfriend, not her agent or manager; she doesn’t have to run everything she does through you first. Relationships aren’t depositions; she doesn’t need to tell you every single thing that goes on, especially if it could end up causing unnecessary drama. Keeping it on the down-low in order to avoid a fight that, ultimately, is unnecessary isn’t that big of a crime.
Look at the big picture here: she’s keeping pretty solid boundaries with this guy. She’s called him out when he’s stepped over the line, she’s taking things with care and she’s not going behind your back to hang out with him. That, I think, is the bigger takeaway here. She has a right to friends of her choice. And if this guy where toxic or actively trying to fuck her – instead of just being kind of a dick – then you’d be in a better position to draw a line. Right now though? I think you’re creating problems where they don’t need to exist. I think you need to trust your girlfriend’s judgement and ability to maintain boundaries around him. Making a fuss over things is far more likely to cause problems than fix them.
Plus: if he’s as much of a dick as he sounds? That friendship’ll self-destruct on it’s own.