Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I’ve been together with my boyfriend for a cumulative 5 months. We were head over heels for each other almost immediately. It was like something out of an Avril Lavigne song – he was a video game animator, she was a model, what more can I say?
His father had passed away a year ago, and he immediately started to treat me like the only bright spot in his life. I had just gotten out of an abusive relationship, and was so grateful to him for legitimately wanting me to be happy and, you know, not hitting me. I realize that these are pretty terrible reasons to love someone.
After 4 months, I got a job in New Jersey, and he got a job in California. So we parted ways with promises to make the distance work. But once I had some space away from him, I started to get some perspective. I realized that we had 3 major problems.
1. He didn’t really respect my needs or wishes. He often wouldn’t take no for an answer. If I didn’t want to have sex, or if I didn’t want to drink anymore, often he would just ooze through my boundaries and I would find myself unexpectedly doing things that I didn’t want to be doing.
2. I was always frustrated with him for being irresponsible. He’s A LOT older than me, but I always felt like I had to be Mommy.
3. I have no backbone. I panic and lock up at the thought of telling people things that will upset them, especially in the context of relationships and dating.
So. When he returned to the east coast, I drove 6 hours to meet him and break things off. It seemed like the decent thing to do. But as soon as I started saying that I wasn’t happy in the relationship, he interrupted me, saying “Well I’ve never loved anyone as much as you. I’ve never wanted to be with someone for the rest of my life.” And then HE PROPOSED. I said that it didn’t seem like a good idea to get married when we were on the rocks. I then fled the state, and broke up with him over the phone once I was safely home.
A month later, he hopped on a train to New Jersey to win me back. I felt so guilty, and he’s really good at feeding that guilt. The truth is, I should have stuck to my guns. I shouldn’t even have agreed to see him. But I did see him, and I did take him back.
I can’t persuade him. I can’t talk to him and have my words register in his one-track mind. How do I get out of this relationship for good? I know that texting someone to break up is pretty much the worst, but I’m scared that if I give him any opportunity to respond, that I’ll give in and remain trapped in this situation.
Before I get to your question, MI, I want to point something out. Your letter provides an interesting example of how a toxic relationship doesn’t always look the way we expect them to. A toxic relationship doesn’t necessarily look like a Lifetime made-for-tv movie with a cruel, demanding or overbearing partner domineering over the other person. Sometimes the toxic partner can be subtle or position themselves as the wounded party and leverage the other person’s guilt against them. They may just blithely ignore their partner’s boundaries while acting like there’s absolutely nothing wrong and behaving like they have every right to do whatever they want. And – as in many cases – they’re often very good at giving just enough plausible deniability that their victims don’t have any one thing they can point to as a sign that shit’s wrong. Instead, you’re left with the vague feeling that something’s off and being convinced that this isn’t really enough to end a relationship.
But the fact of the matter is, the only reason you need to end a relationship is “because you want to.” There’s no council you have to convince or a judge who has to give their approval to your reasons. If you want out, then ultimately, that’s all the reason you need.
(To be fair: this isn’t automatically a good reason. But it is a valid one, good or not.)
Now let’s get to your problem MI. Fortunately, the solution is very simple: you dump him. It’s a unilateral decision and you’ve decided that it’s over.
You don’t persuade him, because there’s no need to. Breaking up isn’t like launching nuclear missiles. You don’t need to both agree to turn the keys before the relationship ends. You just say “I’m breaking up with you,” and you’re broken up. You don’t need to make the words sink in, because you don’t need him to agree; you just state the facts because he can’t keep you in a relationship against your will. You don’t negotiate because this isn’t a negotiation. You don’t need to be “fair” because fairness never enters into this; being “fair” to him is being unfair to you. You don’t need to “give him an opportunity to have his say” because this isn’t a discussion. You don’t need to justify it. You don’t need to explain it. You state the facts and you just state them over and over again because there’s nothing else to say. “No” is a complete sentence. By presenting a solid wall of “No, we’re broken up,” you give him fewer opportunities to try to weasel his way past your boundaries.
But while we’re talking about your Once-and-Future Ex’s ability to change your mind: don’t give him the opportunity. While under normal circumstances I do, in fact, believe that couples should break up in person if at all possible, there are times when that’s just unreasonable. And if you’re talking about your own personal version of Kilgrave, then that’s very unreasonable. So it’s time to apply the Nuclear Option: you text him that you don’t want to talk to him, that you don’t want to see him and you sure as shit don’t want to date him and this is over. Period, the end. Then you block him on every form of communication you own. If you’re worried that he’ll try to bankshot back into your life off your friends or parents, you tell them that in no circumstances do you ever want to hear from him again, no matter what he tells them. And if they can’t respect your boundary there… well, then it’s time to start cutting their access to you too.
He can’t persuade you if he can’t talk to you. Now take a little time to forgive yourself for being a caring and sensitive person.
Straight talk though: developing your boundaries and a willingness to enforce them isn’t a good idea, it’s a survival skill, and one you need to cultivate through active practice. Fortunately, this is going to be a great opportunity to practice. Saying “no” to him – not “no, but” or “no, because” but just “no” is going to help you grind that skill.
So go nuclear. Give him the news via text, then immediately block him. And practice saying “no” often and regularly.
You’re strong. You’ve got this. And write back so we know how you’re doing.
Hello Dr. NerdLove,
I’m a 35-year old straight man that has a strong sex drive. A VERY strong sex drive. This has created problems in the past with relationships as I’m basically DTF 24/7, need very little refractory time, some to have an endless supply of energy and am generally insatiable. When I was a younger man, it was even stronger, but I was generally able to find partners that were equally driven and/or accommodating to my 3-6 times a day habit.I almost married a girl that had similar demands on me, and the three years I was with her, we spent most of our free time in the bedroom.
However, her and I broke up a few years back, and I went through a long dry spell of two years as I nursed my heart back to a place where it could deal with the conveyor belt of rejection that is dating. During this dry spell, my drive diminished a bit but I still took care of myself at least once a day, often 2-3 times. About a year ago, I felt ready and got into online dating. I went on many a date, mostly awkwardly flubbing the stupid games of online dating but slowly getting the hang of things to the point where I have had a few 1-2 month flings in the past year. However, dating women close to my age I’ve found that is not nearly the desire to jump in the sack that I still retain. I have been told that I’m immature in my randiness and that anyone that wants to have sex as often as I do hasn’t grown up. I broke up with one due to simply being completely sexually incompatible as she had almost no desire at all, and more recently I was dating a polyamorous woman that loved frequent sex and even she couldn’t keep up with me (to be fair, she claimed that I took too much of her time, being solo poly as she was and wanting to spend more time with others.)
There is a physical problem that is happening too. While I have no problems when I am solo, but when I’m with a partner, I have be experiencing delayed ejaculations randomly but frequently enough to be concerned. I’ve looked at sites like NoFap and I have mostly cut porn out of the equation for fear that I’ve gained a dopamine resistance that may be causing the problem, and have gone days or even weeks without touching myself (which makes me get long-term insomnia) and the problem remains when with a partner.
The result is that I can’t really keep a relationship because women get sick of it, and I shouldn’t be jerking off 5 times a day but then I can’t sleep and on the occasion I sleep with someone new I often can’t come. What the fuck am I supposed to do about this? HELP!
-Never Not Thinking It
You have a high sex drive, NNTI. That’s not good, that’s not bad, that’s just how you are. Welcome to the wild and wooly world of being a human, where sex drives and libido fall on a spectrum from asexual to satyr-like and everywhere in between. Your problem isn’t that you’re horny – presuming, that is, that your horniness isn’t actively interfering with your every day life – it’s your relationship to your own body. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting sex. There’s nothing wrong with wanting lots of sex. Being rabidly horny doesn’t mean you’re immature, nor does having a lower sex drive mean you’re more adult1 It’s how you respond to your libido that’s going to speak more to your maturity or lack thereof. For example, if you’re not letting your masturbatory habits drive you to choking the chicken at inappropriate times (such as, say, on the job), get in the way of your life (you were late for that important meeting because you had to rub one out) and you’re not wearing holes in your dick, there’s really nothing wrong with masturbating five times a day.
I mean, other than potential dehydration, anyway.
On the other hand, if you’ve constantly got your hand down your pants to the point you don’t even notice it or you’re annoying your partner with wanting to get off repeatedly… well then you’ve got a problem. But the problem is the expression of that desire, not the desire itself.
You do have to accept that being incredibly horny all the time is going to be an issue for some folks though. For starters: you’re going to have a harder time finding someone who’s 100% sexually compatible with you. People with libidos that consistently high are going to be rare on the ground under the best of circumstances. You’re going to have to accept that in the context of a relationship, you’re not going to get fucked every single time you want it and you’re going to need to learn to be OK with this. Even for women who do like to fuck frequently, there comes a point where PIV sex goes from being fun to painful, no matter how much lube one uses. There’re only so many blowjobs and handies a person can give before things start to cramp and get sore or you simply don’t have time for. Expanding your definition of what “sex” is to the two of you – including, say, mutual masturbation or your partner giving you an assist via dirty talk or teasing you while you jerk off – will give you both options for sexual activity to help keep you both satisfied.
But at the same time, you’re going to have to be willing to accept that there will be times your partner won’t be up for sex of any kind and you’ll need to take care of yourself… without complaint or making them feel bad for not servicing you right then and there.
Which brings us to the next part of your letter: your inability to get off with a partner. I think you have two issues here, one physiological and one psychological. The first is that I suspect you’ve got Death Grip Syndrome or what some doctors call “idiosyncratic masturbation habits” – that is, you’ve basically carved a groove into your brain with the way you masturbate. One thing that a lot of people do is that they functionally train themselves to respond to very specific stimulation, to the point that they no longer respond to other forms of stimulation. So if you have a very specific masturbatory pattern, especially one that incorporates texture or pressure that the human vagina, anus or mouth can’t replicate, then you’re going to have a much harder time getting off when you’re not bashing the bludger.
The other problem is psychological. You are so ashamed of your sex drive and worried about being judged for it – especially after some of your exes’ bullshit, holy crap – that it’s harder to get off in partnered sex. I think the more you come to accept yourself and your sex drive as normal and not something to be ashamed of, the less that this will be an issue.
So what do you do? Well, part of undoing Death Grip Syndrome is basically giving up all forms of masturbation until you basically have starved yourself to the point that any contact will get you off. Now somebody call Sir Mix-A-Lot because there’s a big ol’ but coming….
When you do start masturbating again, you can’t go back to your old pattern. That just completely undoes all the hard (fnar) work you’ve done. The whole point of resensitizing your dick is to get it to respond to a wider variety of sensations, speeds, textures and pressure. You need to vary things up – use your non-dominant hand, use lots of lube, use a little lube, use a spiral grip, go slow, go VERY slow, use as little pressure as possible, etc. Otherwise you’re just going to end up back in the same place you were before. Don’t worry about NoFap – it’s basically bullshit – or dopamine resistance (ditto) and focus more on changing your habits.
So, my advice: take ownership of your libido. It is what it is, you are who you are, and frankly there’s nothing wrong with it. Accept that you’re going to be responsible for you own gratification at least some of the time so that you’re not annoying your partner with how much you want to get laid. Get yourself a masturbation sleeve like a Tenga Flip or a Fleshlight and some (water-based) lube – not only will that help you for the times when your girlfriend isn’t interested, but it’ll help avoid getting stuck in Death Grip Syndrome again.
- Except in the sense that libido tends to decline as we age… but that’s a different issue entirely. [↩]