Normally on Fridays, I run readers questions for Ask Dr. NerdLove. On occasion, however, I’ll get a letter that necessitates going into greater depth than the usual submission. Sometimes the answer is more complex or requires a deeper dive into the situation. Sometimes the only way to see where things went wrong is to grab the bonesaw and start carving into the body of the dilemma and poking around at the guts inside.
So it’s time to scrub up, snap on some gloves and dive in for a little emotional surgery in this relationship Post Mortem.
Let’s do this.
I am going thru recovery of a bad crush, and read your article on Nice Guying.
I am 35, currently married, but have been separated for 6 of the last 8 married years. Though not a virgin, I haven’t had sex with or been attracted to my wife in that amount of time.
Separated for six years?
Well I found your first problem. Seriously chief, I realize that it can be difficult to pull the trigger on a break-up with a long-term partner but… six years.
She changed personalities upon marriage.
This is, unfortunately, not that uncommon. There are people who will behave one way during the courtship phase and then change drastically once the relationship is locked in.
Due to this and this past crush, we are divorcing.
It all started about a year ago. I began working at a social club as the treasurer. I became attracted to one of the members pretty much immediately. However, I knew that any relationship that went beyond a professional one would take me down a path of emotional turmoil.
Or, alternately, it could have been the motivation to finally get out of your shitty marriage. Sometimes an attraction to another person can be the impetus to finally do what needs to be done.
I avoided my crush for several months to preserve my sanity and protect whatever is left of my marriage.
However, after I’d been working for the club for months, she approached me to hang out with her and her friend. Like an idiot, and against my better judgement, I agreed.
Over the following weeks, we chatted regularly and hung out every weekend. During this time, I would talk with her way more often than I did with my own wife. I refused to push any flirting or physical touching; I had resolved that I wasn’t going to cheat (at least, physically). In fact, I’m in the military and the UCMJ lists adultery as a jailable offense.
However, she was MUCH younger, 20. So, everything I did, I reasoned if it was OK to do with a platonic friend, it was OK to do with her.
In general, this is true. Men and women are quite capable of being friends without sex getting in the way. Hell, even being attracted to somebody doesn’t mean that you can’t be friends. As I’ve said before: attraction isn’t a call to action and you don’t need to act on every erection. However, there is such a thing as putting yourself into harm’s way. If you stuck your dick in the crocodile’s mouth, you can’t really complain when it bites it off.
I hung out, we traded relationship advice, attended events together, ate together, became Snapchat buddies… it was literally gold hearted.
Until she complained that I don’t open up. So, knowing alcohol typically removes inhibitions…
…I drank myself stupid in order to let loose my emotions.
Oh damn it.
I would up telling her how beautiful she was and how much I loved her.
Next day, I was embarrassed that I had opened up over feelings I had been resisting while sober. It began an awkward situation with my friend. After all, she knew I was unhappily married. But she permitted my continued friendship by giving me the “friends or distance” option. I chose “friends” at first.
Alright man, let’s be honest here: you knew this was going to happen. It’s not like the emotional vomiting was an unexpected consequence of drinking too much. The booze was an excuse to do what you had been wanting to do: confess your feelings. Unfortunately, she didn’t respond in the way you were hoping and now you’ve been left with the knowledge that you’ve fucked this particular pooch and you can’t unfuck it.
And this is where things get especially complicated. You’ve set up a no-win situation with your friend because, well, you treated your feelings for her like a dark secret that risked escaping into the world instead of being mature about it. This wasn’t a case of “hey, I have some complicated feelings for you but I’ve got a handle on them and everything’ll be above-board.”
But you didn’t do this. Because just between you, me and the readership: you knew damn good and well that you were hoping that something was going to happen here. This was a case of “please let the gods be kind and give me the opportunity to make this happen.”
Your confession only came out because you (deliberately) got stupid drunk, it now changes the character of your entire relationship with her – especially now that you’re saying “Yeah, cool, I can be friends, it’s not a problem”. All of this suggests to her (and, y’know, to me) that you’re not in a place to handle your admittedly complicated feelings for her. Now she’s going to have to second-guess whether anything you do is going to be motivated by your not-secret-anymore desires for her.
The best thing you could have done is choose the distance option. If you took time away to get your head on straight about her, maybe finally end your dead marriage (SIX! YEARS!!) so that you can find someone you could date with a clean conscience (and not having to look over your shoulder for the MP’s) then you might have been able to salvage a friendship with her. But because you immediately went to “No, we can just be friends”, you’re putting her in the position of having to question whether you’re actually over her. And because you’d been harboring this crush in secret… well, now she’s not going to be able to be completely at ease with you.
That’s a shitty burden to put on a friend and why being a Nice Guy is a dick move to do to someone you supposedly care about and it is immediately going to bite you in the ass.
But knowing she was broke college student, I wound up wanting to pay for things every so often (after all, I had $$$, she didn’t).
Oh Jesus. Please tell me you didn’t.
But this repulsed her openly. She resisted any offer of reimbursement or material exchange.
I am entirely un-fucking-surprised. Even in platonic relationships, one person spending lots of money on another has the potential to be incredibly uncomfortable. When you add in the knowledge of someone’s romantic interest, it’s almost impossible not to see this as trying to buy somebody’s affections.
Also, both fitness oriented, we both agreed to jog together, but 2 hours prior, she reneges.
Again: not fucking surprised. Between your confession and trying to buy her things, she’s likely not going to feel comfortable doing things that may imply levels of intimacy that aren’t there. Running together – because it’s time alone with you – likely qualifies.
A few weeks later, she expressed interest in riding a motorcycle…the kind of which I owned. So, I offered to teach her to ride. Which, when she was sober, was hesitant. When drunk, she was giddy to partake.
General rule: if someone is agreeing to something while drunk that they’re agreeing to while sober? Then GO WITH THEIR SOBER OPINION. The fact that she’s ok with it while drunk doesn’t magically erase her discomfort, it means that she’s not thinking clearly. If she really wants to do something – motorcycle lessons, sex, whatever – while drunk, wait and ask again when she’s sober.
So, I buy a helmet and jacket for her to use when riding…because it’s required. My size is different.
Which takes me to the last day I spoke to her. After an evening of working at the club, she needed a ride home. So I gave her a ride home. I give her the gear and a bag to carry it all. Smiling, she departs.
One hour later: “Did you buy this? Its kinda sugar daddy-like.”
Pissed, I tell her “I’m not your sugar daddy. It’s not the fucking jacket, its the hours spent riding. This isn’t buying you into a relationship. I can’t help it if I have $$$ and you don’t. Forgive me if I want to make it possible for you to do the things you want to do. I’ve done this for all my friends, regardless of financial background.”(which is true).
She also lives with her parents, and they return the jacket a day later.
It was right about here that you really fucked up.
It would be one thing if, say, you were contributing to her Patreon or a GoFundMe or a Kickstarter in order to enable her to do things she wanted to do. Those are times when friends’ financial assistance has been specifically requested and would be greatly appreciated. However. That’s not what you did.
Similarly, it’s one thing to, say, pick up the tab at lunch or bought a round of drinks. That’s something that friends do.
I did some very basic research on jackets and helmets. If we’re going to be conservative and and assume a cruiser or half-helmet, we’re still talking about somewhere between $50 and $100 on the low end. Similarly, most of the low-end jackets I found (including clearout prices) came in between $120-$200. So we’re talking about dropping upwards of $170- $300 on someone. That’s a significant chunk of change to drop on a friend out of the blue. If – and that’s a pretty big fucking if – she were serious about getting lessons from you, it’s reasonable to assume that she’d supply her own gear, whether purchasing it herself, borrowing it from a friend or renting it from somewhere. Hell, it wouldn’t be weird if you offered her a loan or made arrangements in advance to get it for her and she’d pay you back over time.
Having you suddenly show up and presenting it to her is going to feel weird regardless of context. This is not behavior that one generally expects from a platonic friend, certainly not from a friend of very long standing.
In the context of your feelings for her? Yeah, that’s going to feel like you’re trying to bribe her into loving you. Is that what you intended? No… but as has been said in many places, intent is not magic.
So buying her that gear, unasked for, is very understandably going to put her on her guard.
But it’s your response to her that basically confirmed for her that this was a bad idea. Getting pissed and defensive is going to tell her that she was right to question your intent. Your response to her tells her that you expected a lot from her in exchange for those gifts. This phrase right here:
“I can’t help it if I have $$$ and you don’t. Forgive me if I want to make it possible for you to do the things you want to do.”
is pretty key. “OH I’M SO SORRY I TRIED TO MAKE YOU HAPPY” isn’t the response of a friend, it’s the response of someone who believes that doing these things for someone obligates the other person to them. And then there’s this bit:
I’m sure she got pressured from her parents too.
Um. No. She didn’t need pressure from her parents to think this was a bad idea. I promise you, she was quite capable of thinking this on her own. And holding on to the idea that her parents are pouring poison in her ear about you isn’t going to earn any emotional intelligence points here about your relationship with her.
Defensive, we sign off. A day later she gives me the “Friend or distance” ultimatum again. This time, I chose “It was nice to know you.” I was pissed that she both initiated the friendship, wanted to get fit, and learn to ride…and yet flaked out on every one of them.
Dude. Dude. She initiated the friendship under the assumption that it would just be a friendship. The rest of this: the jogging, the motorcycle lessons… those all changed after you got drunk and confessed and changed the nature of your friendship. Once you made things weird for her, she was not comfortable with you any more.
Knowing I cannot change another person, and my crush on her would always taint our friendship, I called it quits.
That’s not sarcasm. That was a legitimately smart decision. Ultimately that’s the best and healthiest choice you could make for the both of you.
The next day, super depressed that I just released the biggest crush of my life (I’ ve had several in my life), I went to work, only to stare at the computer screen. They sent me home, missing rest of the day. Like an idiot, I do a Snapchat of alcohol, wanting to drink the pain away.
Alright. As someone who has emo-puked all the fuck over social media before (thankfully gone now) I can tell you that booze + depression + social media is a bad idea. Booze + depression + social media that’s open to the world is even worse. It would be one thing if you had a feelings-dump on your locked-down Facebook profile or a private blog post or something. But waving your “THIS SUCKS NOW FEEL SORRY FOR ME” flag all over, in a place where you know your crush can see it is don’t-cross-the-streams level bad. Even in the most generous reading, it’s going to come across as you hoping that she’s going to see how bad you’re hurting and change her mind because of the depths of your pain.
Not only does this not happen, it can feel all kinds of manipulative. Just… no. Don’t do that. It’s better to have some friends to cry to – or, failing that, an uninvolved third party like a bartender – than to portray yourself as a martyr to love on Snapchat.
Her friend see the snap story. My crush gets wind, freaks out, and tells her dad that I make her feel uncomfortable and she doesn’t want to be alone with me anymore. (basically similar to stalking symptoms)
See, this is what I’m talking about. Your behavior has been making her increasingly uncomfortable and this was the last straw.
Her dad calls the club, the club kicks me out. The club is located 300 yards from my house. Incredibly hurt beyond belief, I begin to fear her dad with a gun or police at my door step… even though she or her friend had been the ones who’d invite me to hang out with them. She never signaled that she was uncomfortable or repulsed by my presence.
First: let’s not go overboard here. Unless there’s stuff you’ve left out, expecting her dad to show up with a gun is one hell of a leap.
Second: Yes. She did signal her discomfort. Odds are that you missed the subtler ones. However telling you “friends or distance”, cancelling plans that meant being alone with you, telling you that it felt like you were trying to buy her affections were the unsubtle signals. These were pretty damn unambiguous indications of how she felt. The fact that you either didn’t get it or didn’t want to get it is on you.
I literally bawled and went to retrieve my belongings at the club. I saw a few other female members, teary eyed, and tell them what happened. I go back and make sure her friend knows since she had been helping me recover.
Dude. Dude. I get that you’re feeling heartbroken but… dude. There is a time for teary-eyed confession and there’s a time to make a dignified exit. This… was decidedly the latter. These were a whole bunch of people who didn’t need the details in your drama just then.
Well, little did I know that all this had just embarrassed her. So she tells me to stop telling people, which I did.
Aaaaand that’s why.
After that, like my original distance decision, I stopped talking to her, and eventually her friend. Her friend eventually begins ghosting me…even though she still says “hey” in person. I still have a good relationship with her friend’s mom.
Most importantly, the degree to which my crush occcured, made me realize what I lacked in my marriage: passion.
No, you lacked a marriage. You have been separated from your wife for Six! Years! Passion is literally the last of your worries there. Your problem was you married a person to whom you were drastically not suited and a speedy divorce could have saved you six years of misery.
So, I filed for divorce, finally.
I am now close to getting the divorce decree and run into my crush still every so often (small town/club-is-300ft-from-my-house). While I believe I get over her a little each day, but I can’t help being hurt each time I go home passing a club where I still have friends who share my interests. Should I try to contact my crush to resolve things and thus rekindle my club status,
This is a holy shit bad level bad idea. Getting back in contact with her is the last thing you want to do. All that’s going to do is make things worse. The best option you have with her is to stay the fuck away. How long is going to depend on a number of factors – which I’ll get into in a moment – but for right now just accept that this bridge has been well and truly burned.
or continue divesting of those friends?
Is the club literally the only place you can see them? Can you not make plans with them outside of club environs?
How can one “move on” when you are constantly reminded daily that I was removed for having feelings…that I resisted a lot.
Well to start with, you can accept that you didn’t get kicked out of the club for “having feelings”, you got kicked out for making someone feel supremely uncomfortable. The sooner you accept that this isn’t because of your feelings but because of the way you acted on them, the sooner you’ll be able to move on.
Of all the thing I got for her and her friend:
1) Work freebies(promotional items: bottles bags, pens, etc…)
2) Hand me down refridgerator from another member
3) A bag
4) Concert tickets for all three of us
5) Motorcycle jacket
Was I ” too nice”/”Nice Guy”? If so, how so?
Yeah, you were pretty damn Nice Guy and Nice Guys aren’t good. Your friendship with her was predicated on your feelings for her, not a legitimate friendship. Once you admitted your feelings, your behavior – including pushing gifts on her and using her inebriated state to make plans – made her feel deeply uncomfortable with you. You missed many, many signs that you were distressing her and ultimately displayed a lot of poor choices that ultimately lead to the point of her feeling so uneasy with you that it ended with your getting kicked out of the club. It sucks that this happened but ultimately this is all the result of things that you did.
Cheating is illegal for me. They might not have known that, but it is. Uniform Code of Military Justice makes adultery illegal and punishable.
Will I be reported if I attempt to reconcile?
Reported to whom and for what? To her parents? Quite likely. To a judge in order to secure a restraining order? Maybe? To the MPs? Doubt it.
BUT IT’S STILL A FUCKING BAD IDEA.
Will she be uncomfortable if I return?
Interestingly, I am comfortable with thought of us just not working out. But I’m not comfortable with having been kicked out.
Too damn bad, man. It happened. Now you have to deal with this.
How am I supposed to go home daily without being in fear of further and eventual stalking allegations?
By not stalking her. Give her space. Don’t try to get in contact with her. Don’t try to bankshot get in contact with her through her friend. Don’t make a fuss about trying to get back into the club. Don’t talk about her on social media and don’t make a big deal of “look how much I’m not talking about her”.
I get you’re worried, but your crush isn’t trying to ruin your life. She’s not going to maliciously destroy you because fuck your feelings that’s why. She just doesn’t want to feel like you’re creeping on her and is more comfortable without you around. You fucked up here. If you want to salvage things, then your best option is to show that you’re taking responsibility for your actions and doing your best to make things easier for everyone by being mature about this.
She gave me a stare down last month riding by…what was that?
Fucked if I know. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say. But I will say that I’m not sure about your interpretation of it right now.
Should I move away?
Serious question here: will this make things better for you? Not in the “oh god I’m going to get brought up on charges” sense but in the “it won’t hurt as much if I’m not here” sense. If you can afford to move, if there’s a place that you can move to and if it means that you won’t be afraid or continually picking at the emotional scab here, then it is an option. If it’ll make life better for you, then it’s worth considering.
But it’s not going to be a magic cure.
If so, why? Why must I be intimidated by a young girl? It’s hard to create my own happiness with others, when I’m constantly reminded of being kicked.
How can I move on?
Too Nice/Too Creepy?
Here’s what you need to do TNTC: you need to get some therapy. I’m not suggesting this lightly, nor am I saying that you’re mentally ill. What I am saying is that you are carrying around a shitload of anxiety and no small amount of psychic pain – not just from this but from your marriage. That alone is hurting you on many levels. Talking to a therapist is going to be an important part of easing that burden and feeling better.
But that’s not the only reason you should talk to a therapist. You’re having issues with expressing yourself emotionally, with managing and respecting boundaries and with your interpersonal relationships. A therapist can help you get to the center of these issues, help you find better and healthier ways of managing your feelings and learn to interact with people in a more productive manner.
Getting into therapy will also show people that you understand that you erred and you are serious about making things better. It’ll help repair some of those connections you had with your club and with your friends as well as help you not be so afraid about the future with your crush. It won’t mean that you’ll patch things up with her, nor does it guarantee that you’ll be let back in. But at the very least? You’ll have the scripts and the skills to at least mitigate some of what happened and avoid similar situations in the first place.
But again: stay away from your crush. That part’s non-negotiable.
Good luck, man.