Doctor’s note: Hey folks, this week we’re doing things a little different. Sometimes even the advice-givers need a little advice of their own… so who do they reach out to? Well, in this case… me. Straight from the pages of the excellent comic Fresh Romance, advice columnists of The Divorcée Club have sent questions of their own in for Ask Dr. NerdLove. These questions will also appear in an upcoming issue of Fresh Romance, so be sure to check them out as well! With that having been said… let’s do this thing.
Hey Dr. NerdLove…
So, I’m married to someone who is a great partner in pretty much all ways. We get along well, we take our relationship seriously but not too seriously, and we are truly partners. There’s one thing that we both struggle with, though. I’m a social butterfly who thrives in situations where I can flit from group to group chatting with friends and acquaintances. I love meeting new people. I get loud and chatty. He… does not. He prefers quiet evenings with a handful of people he knows well. In loud social situations with a ton of people, he’s not necessarily uncomfortable, but he’s not having fun. We haven’t found a good compromise to this situation yet. In casual friend outings, we are both a-okay with doing our own thing and going out alone. For work, I have to do my thing, and he would like to join to be supportive, but is there a way to make him comfortable without excluding him from the social stuff? Are we missing a middle ground? Help!
Relationships between introverts and extroverts can be tricky at times; what energizes one is the exact same thing that drains the other. This gets especially tricky when – as in your case, Celtine – your job necessitates being very social and spending times in loud parties; for many introverts, that can be a special level of hell. So how do you handle this?
Well, the most obvious answer is that your husband has his own plans and does his own thing while you’re at the events. Another possibility is that he could be there for the beginning when you both arrive, then quietly duck out and meet up with you again when you’re ready to leave. If the event is large enough, most people will simply assume that he’s somewhere around and his absence won’t be terribly noticeable, especially if he can sneak back in towards the end. Of course, this isn’t always possible due to logistics – there’s nowhere else to go, it’s a ticketed or otherwise limited-entry event where exiting means it’s more difficult to come back in with ease, etc. At times like these, then you want to be strategic with your limited energy. If the two of you are comfortable with splitting up and navigating the party separately, it may be useful to make an initial pass at introducing your husband to a few people before getting down to the nitty-gritty networking. This makes it slightly easier because it gives him a number of people as anchor points where he already has an “in” instead of trying to come in completely cold. By having those specific individuals or groups, he doesn’t have to feel like he needs to mingle at the same rate you do; he can go to specific people as needed instead of flitting from group to group. At times when he feels his energy start to flag, excuse himself step out for a smoke/ get some fresh air / refresh his drink and take a few minutes to recover before either finding another anchor point or rejoining you briefly. Being able to to touch base and recover before choosing to engage with someone else can make it easier to maintain his energy levels and not feel like he’s holding you back or being a drain on your energy by making you feel like you need to be responsible for his enjoyment as well.
And of course, there’s always the possibility that he sits some of those events out on occasion. Part of what makes a marriage work is having time apart on occasion as well; it might not be a bad idea for him to schedule some bonding time with his friends while you’re doing your thing.
I’ve been with my partner for 3 years and living with him for 6 months. He has depression and anxiety issues that I think, or at least I hope, I have a decent understanding of. But sometimes when he’s having a bad day he says things that are, for lack of a better word, mean. For example, I’ll talk about how excited I am about something or I’ll tell him about a project I’m nervous about starting and he’ll be very dismissive. Most of the time he’s really supportive and caring, so it’s really hurtful when he’s dismissive. Is this his depression talking; am I being overly sensitive? Or is this something I should be worried about?
One of the worst things about depression is that it’s not that you’re feeling down or blue, it’s that you don’t feel anything. Everything is just… numb and gray and nothing really seems to matter and everything feels worthless and like it’s a waste of time and you just can’t bring yourself to give a shit. So even when you know, intellectually, that something matters to your partner and you should be supportive, you can’t muster up the emotional energy to care. Then you end up being kind of annoyed that you’re being asked to feel a certain way or to do something that is seemingly so trivial and unimportant or meaningless and you get annoyed or even angry over it.
Meanwhile, here you are, excited about something going on or you have this concern you could use some reassurance over or otherwise want some emotional support from your partner and he brushes it off like it’s not important. And while rationally you know it’s his depression, it still hurts because being rational about something doesn’t mean it still doesn’t feel like a rejection. So, no, I don’t think you’re being overly sensitive. Dismissal and rejection hurts.
(Can you tell that I deal with depression?)
Assuming that this doesn’t seem to come up regularly and that it coincides with other signs that he’s having an especially bleak day, then yes, I’d say it’s likely his depression talking. Hopefully, he’s managing it – whether through therapy, exercise, meditation, medication or any combination of those – and not just letting it run his life. But even when you’re taking active steps, sometimes depression just kicks you (general you) in your soul’s nuts and you’re going to have an especially bad day and sometimes those bleed into the rest of your life.
If you, Calliope, can recognize the signs that your partner’s having one of those bad days, then it’s worth reminding yourself that it’s almost certainly the depression talking and not some reflection about how he actually feels. That being said, however: being depressed doesn’t give someone a pass on being an asshole. Yeah, it can be difficult to be supportive and excited with your (general you) partner when you’re at a low point, but that doesn’t excuse you from being careful about their feelings too. He still has a responsibility to you and to the relationship the two of you share, and part of that means not being needlessly hurtful or mean. If he knows he’s having a bad day, he needs to get in front of that and try to reign in that impulse to ignore, dismiss or otherwise be a dick… even if it’s really annoying him. If at all possible, he should give you a heads up so that you know what’s going on too, so you know where he’s coming from.
And if he does let a dickish moment through, then it’s on him to apologize for it and work to not do it again.
Depression is a sonofabitch, and it can be hard on relationships. Maintaining one with somebody with depression takes strength of heart and commitment, and it says a lot about you that you’re trying to make it work.
Dear Doctor NerdLove,
Ever since I was seven years old, I always felt different from the other kids. Only in my late teens did I discover it was because I was bisexual. Most of my life, I’ve been ‘semi-closeted’… revealing my preferences to a very select group of trusted friends. In college, I explored a little — and genuinely loved the company of both men and women. However, I also discovered a lot of prejudice towards bisexuals as a sexual preference. Now that I’m older and a little more confident in myself and who I am, I’m interested in exploring a little more, but frankly, I have know idea where to start. I don’t feel like clubs or Craigslist are right for me — and random hook-ups were never my thing. I’m apprehensive that I’ll face the same sorts of challenges and prejudices I experienced in college. I’d love some suggestions about how to go about finding a safe, meaningful bisexual relationship.
It all depends on what you mean by a bisexual relationship, Curt. I mean, by definition, any relationship you get into is going to be a bisexual one. Are you looking to explore your attraction to men and women equally, while not committing exclusively to one person? Are you more interested in exploring a more polyamorous style relationship, with more than one partner at the same time? Or are you perhaps more of a serial monogamist and simply willing to follow your heart and your junk’s lead as to whether it’ll be with a man or a woman this time? Or perhaps somewhere in between?
Regardless of the type of relationship you’re looking for, I’d suggest that online dating might be your first step. Finding LGBT social groups and meet-ups can be a great way to make more connections in the community, which can help lead to dates as well as making some awesome new friends. However, this can be kind of intimidating, especially when you’re starting out and still feeling your way around as it were. Online dating lets you ease your way in at a pace that’s comfortable to you and connect with people who are ostensibly looking for the same sorts of relationships you are.
I’d recommend a two-pronged approach: a profile on OKCupid and an account on Tinder. This gives you a relatively wide range of potential matches on two platforms that seem to do better for queer individuals than, say, Match, or who’re looking for relationships (as opposed to hook-up apps like Grindr).
Going the OKCupid route gives you the opportunity to do some vetting of potential dates before even approaching them. Do their questions indicate that they’re open to dating a bi individual? Are they looking for the same things as you are, or are the two of you diametrically opposed, sexually or personality-wise?
Tinder, on the other hand, has the benefit of being strictly opt-in; you won’t get approached or messaged by people unless you’ve already indicated that you’re into them as well. While there’ll still be plenty of false-positives – there’re all sorts of subtle signs of compatibility and incompatibility that we simply can’t see without meeting in person – this helps cut down the sheer amount of bullshit that you’ll have to face. If you’re up front about being bi on your profile, people who’re uninterested in dating someone who’s bisexual will presumably swipe left.
So take some awesome pictures, draft up your the perfect profile, answer those questions carefully and put yourself out there; I’ve even got a guide that can help walk you through it. It can be a challenge. It can be frustrating. But it can also be worth it.
Oh, and one more thing. Your telling someone that you’re bisexual tells them one thing about you. The way they react to that tells you everything about them. As much as it may hurt to be rejected by someone biphobic, they’re doing you a favor by self-selecting out of your dating pool and you’re well rid of them.