Near Dr. NerdLove,
I’m hoping you can help set my mind at ease. About 2 1/2 years ago I married a nerd. Your typical shy, anti-social, Star Trek watching, Star Wars toy collecting, can’t watch a movie unless it has a spaceship in it, plays video games for 10 hours straight nerd. I am not a nerd at all, really. I have my quirks, but I’m not really interested in anything he is. I try to support him in his interests, watching his movies (but not pretending I like them because I’m a horrible actress), helping him sell his Star Wars collection and having no problem with him coming home at 2 AM twice a week because he’s playing WOW with his friends. For reference, he’s 43 and I’m 39. We’re raising three kids together.
I worry, though, a lot. That he’ll meet another nerd, someone who he will think is the coolest, sexiest thing ever, someone who enjoys and affirms everything that he loves and who actually understands his nerd references. There’s one particular girl he follows on Twitter that I’m concerned about who is a pretty, male version of him. He has been nothing but faithful and I have voiced my concerns to him. He has reassured me that it doesn’t matter if we don’t have these things in common.
What do you think? Can nerds and non-nerds really last in love?
Mundane Undergoing Distress
First, a technical note, because I know someone will jump on this if I don’t: if he’s going elsewhere to game with his friends, he’s probably playing Dungeons and Dragons or another table-top RPG, rather than WOW which is an online computer game.
So that out of the way: the critical part of a relationship isn’t having everything in common, it’s about being compatible over all. Having wildly different interests and taking time to enjoy them separately can be good for a relationship; after all, trying to force one’s significant other into taking part in something he or she hates is just a recipe for resentment and anger. As long as he’s not gaming or nerding out at the expense of your relationship – you’re not feeling neglected, he’s not neglecting his share of the household/child-rearing responsibilities or putting gaming before actual relationship or parenting time – then hey, everything’s cool. You’ve got stuff you like doing, he’s got stuff he likes doing and as long you can both respect the other’s interests, even if you don’t share it, then all is well. And from the sounds of it, that’s exactly what you’re doing; you’re giving him space for his stuff that you don’t share and letting him know that even though you don’t get it, you get that he does. Hopefully this is a two-way street and he’s equally as supportive of the things you like, even if he just doesn’t get them. One person doesn’t get a “get out of respecting her stuff free” card just because they’re a nerd after all.
Now, with all that being said, I’m going to be honest here: you sound like you’re feeling a little insecure about more than just that he’s a nerd and you’re not. I mean, following someone on Twitter isn’t a sign of impending infidelity, even if she’s his opposite-sex clone; this goes doubly so if she’s not somebody in his every day life. Yes, online crushes can happen, but honestly, sometimes the clues we think we’re seeing are the voices in our jerkbrain saying “this is too good to be true, something must be wrong,” even when it isn’t. Is it possible that somewhere deep in his soul, he’s craving a Felicia Day type who’s into all the same things he is and gets all the same references and thinks that a few rounds of Titanfall multiplayer makes the best foreplay? Yes, it’s theoretically possible. It’s also theoretically possible he’s a deep-cover KGB agent who’s been left out in the cold after the fall of the Soviet Union. If you’re not careful, you can what-if and maybe yourself into any number of dire scenarios.
But let’s weigh your nagging doubts versus what he’s saying and what he’s doing.
He’s invested two and a half years into your marriage, plus however long the two of you were dating beforehand. He’s raising three children with you. He’s never said a word about feeling resentful or that he’s missing out – in fact he’s been reassuring you that no, he’s actually really happy with you and he’s totally cool with the fact that you’re into his nerd passions. He’s never given you any reason to doubt his fidelity, and presumably he’s been a full and equal partner in the relationship.
Honestly, unless there’s something you left out, it sounds to me like everything is exactly as he says: he’s happy with his relationship with you. He’s got the love and companionship and the shared lives with you and he’s got his buddies for when he wants to geek out. Like I said last week, sometimes you have to just take “yes” for an answer, and in this case, it sounds like yes, he’s incredibly happy with you.
Can nerds and non-nerds be happy together? Hell yes. There’s more to a relationship than just shared hobbies. There’s having similar values, sexual compatibility, emotional and intellectual engagement, goals and lifestyles that synch up together, a willingness to work together towards mutual satisfaction and understanding and whether or not you to make each other happy. All of this is far more indicative of whether a relationship will last than just whether one partner likes to spend their time painting Warhamster miniatures and the other likes to take long walks through the city and shoot artsy photos of graffiti.
If looking around and recognizing that he’s given you no reason to believe that anything’s wrong, then it may be worth taking the time to unpack some of your anxieties with a counselor or a therapist. I think you’ve got something good here. Don’t let your jerkbrain convince you that something’s wrong, even when everything’s ok.
Doctor please help me.
I am 22 years old and I have been married for a year. My husband and I used to have sex all the time. Crazy good sex. All of the sudden it started to stop.
He always said he liked oral better and he “HAD to be in the mood for sex to have it”. Even if I beg for it, even if I sit on top of him, nothing will work. He just “has to be in the mood”. I am so sexually frustrated and hurt. He said it has nothing to do with me and that he still of course finds me attractive so it’s not that he lost interest or anything. I’m just so confused as to why it all of the sudden stopped and why I can’t get him to have sex with me at all? I’m frustrated, hurt, and ashamed to talk about it with friends. I have talked to him about it many times and in the beginning he always just said “I have to be in the mood”. Now he just gets annoyed because I ask all of the time, “why can’t we ever have sex?!”. Tonight is my birthday and I still could not get any. Please please give me some advice. I feel as if I have tried everything and that this is too early in the relationship to have this problem. I also feel that he is too young to have any health issues! Please please help me out here.
Frantic, Frustrated and Female
This is one of those times when it’s frustrating that I’m not an actual doctor, because there are so many potential reasons for this that it’s pretty much impossible to give you an answer. The human sex drive is complex and any number of things can cause it to fall fall apart. Just because he’s young doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for him to have something physically or mentally affecting his libido.
It could be physical. It could be emotional. It could be a combination of the two. He could have prostate problems. He could suspect (or know) he has an STI and doesn’t know how to tell you. He could have realized he’s gay and doesn’t feel that he can come out of the closet. He could have or could be cheating on you. Or he could have suddenly decided that at 22 (oh God you two married young) he’s suddenly done with sex. Or it could be something else entirely. Like I said: Dr. NerdLove is not a doctor.
The first clue of what might be wrong is just how quickly the cut-off happened; did his interest in sex taper off, or was it like turning off a light-switch? The second thing that would be relevant is how long this has been going on: a month, six months, a year? A reduced interest in sex for a week or two is unusual but not a crisis and is usually circumstantial. A lack of interest for a couple months or longer is indicative of something serious going on.
The next thing would be potential external factors. Has he had some major event in his life like losing a job or loved one? Is he experiencing unusual levels of stress – struggling to keep from being evicted levels of stress, not “shit, I forgot I had a deadline at work coming up and have to pull an all-nighter” level. Has he started taking any new medications, especially any anti-depressants or mood stabilizers?
In the end though, the problem is less about the fact that his interest in sex has cratered, it’s in the fact that he doesn’t seem to give a shit just how much it’s upsetting you. It’d be one thing if he were single – it’s up to him whether losing his sex drive is important enough to try to fix it – but when you’re in a relationship, you aren’t just dealing with your shit in a vacuum; what affects you affects your partner too. And when you’re not interested in fixing something that’s actively hurting your partner… well, that’s when you have to start asking some pointed questions about the future of the relationship.
So here’s my recommendation: start with using your words. Instead of demanding “why can’t we ever have sex”, explain to him how you’re feeling – that his sudden lack of interest is hurting you and making you feel that something is wrong with your relationship. You’re bothered by the fact that he’s suddenly no longer interested in you – even when he says he’s still attracted to you – and that he doesn’t seem to be bothered by both the change in his sex drive or the fact that it’s upsetting you.
If he’s willing to at least talk out your concerns, then I would suggest that he talk to a doctor to make sure there isn’t a medical cause to this problem. If there isn’t a medical cause, then there might be a psychological one. He might want to talk to a therapist, or you might want to talk to a couple’s councilor if there are specific relationship issues that are bothering him.
If he’s not willing to talk it out… well, at that point he’s starting to give you a sign of just where he’s prioritizing your concerns and emotional well-being in the relationship and it’s time to seriously consider ending things. Not only is sexual compatibility important but so too is basic concern for your partner’s emotional health and well-being. If he’s just not concerned with the way he’s hurting you, then the relationship is already in it’s death throes and it’s better to just break things off now before they get worse. I’m sorry to put it in such blunt terms, but if he doesn’t care that he’s hurting you, then you’re better off without him.
Good luck. And write back and let us know how you’re doing.