My question is about forming lasting relationships rather than any initial problems meeting girls.
I was seeing this girl recently and initially things went really well – I felt there was a lot of chemistry and compatibility and we got physical very quickly. We had sex a couple of times and it seemed great at the time, and we both said that we had serious feelings for each other (though I said it first). We met up a few more times and she kept giving reasons why that night she didn’t want to get physically intimate. My friends told me not to worry but I felt something was amiss.
Finally, she came over to watch a movie and told me that, while she really liked me as a person and as a friend, she was finding it hard to be interested in me sexually.
This also happened to a girl I was dating for about three months last year – after a really happy initial period when we were always together and having lots of sex, she said she started to just view me as a friend. How can I keep women interested in me romantically past the initial hooking up phase?
One of the first things I tell people who have recurring issues in their relationships is that they need to start looking for commonalities. The more you can pin down what all of those relationships had in common, the easier it is to dial in on where things are going wrong.
The tricky thing is that sometimes the only thing all those relationships may have in common is, well, you. Now this can sound a lot like “oh, I’m an awful person and should clearly never be allowed to date”, but more often than not, what’s going on is that you have a recurring pattern of behaviors that end up causing issues for you.
The key is to not mistake the symptoms for the cause. In this case, it can seem like sex is the cause; after all, it’s only after the relationships turn sexual that women start deciding that no, they’re not that into you in the first place. It’s a pretty easy place to lay blame; sex can be a significant step in relationships and thus provides a fairly handy before/after moment. It’s also almost comedically easy to say something like “have you considered that maybe you’re just a bad lay” — especially if someone is actively avoiding physical intimacy with you. But while that makes for a pithy joke, it’s not necessarily helpful… or even accurate. It could well be that sex isn’t the actual issue, so much as the behavior or attitudes surrounding it, and how they intersect with the people you’re dating.
An example of this could arise if you have a tendency to date the same “type” of woman — that is, women who have particular cultural or social values or beliefs in common. If you’re dating people who normally aren’t quick to sleep with someone or who feel more comfortable getting sexual in a committed relationship, for example, the rate that the relationship progressed could make them feel uncomfortable or cause them to reconsider whether they’re actually compatible with you. Another issue could well be that the kind of sex that you want or need isn’t the kind of sex they need. If your interests, desires, libidos and desired frequency don’t mesh well (or well enough), your partners could well decide that they’d much rather find someone they do mesh with.
But here’s one thing that leaped out at me: “We had sex a couple of times and it seemed great at the time, and we both said that we had serious feelings for each other (though I said it first).” This strikes me as being key, especially since both of the relationships you mention end before you even get out of the honeymoon period. The first relationship, especially, sounds like you were barely together for a couple of weeks before you started copping to having caught feels. And that, I suspect, is the problem. I think you got caught up in the excitement and the thrills and the new relationship energy (for suitably early definitions of “relationship”) and you lost your head. You got twitterpated, you rounded up infatuation to “love” or something close to it and… well, I suspect that this may have freaked out your partner. She may have said “me too” in the moment but in the cold light of the morning after, I suspect there was a “oooooh crap” moment or two for her.
At that point, it’s not surprising that she might start to dial things back; if the sex wasn’t great for her and it seemed like you were getting way more into her than she was into you… well, I’m not surprised she was stomping the brakes before finally cutting things off entirely.
But even if the sex was good — and it seems like it was at least good enough in your second relationship — it could well be that you were moving further and faster than she may have been comfortable with. Even in the early honeymoon stages, it’s easy to have too much togetherness and schmoopy-ness. That’s a good way to burn out a burgeoning relationship before it can even start… leading to a “let’s just be friends” denouement.
I suspect the problem is less the sex and more the speed, the enthusiasm and the leaping to “we have serious feelings”; it’s just that they all happen so close together that it seems like the sex is the trigger, rather than a side-effect. I think you would do well to start slowing your roll with the women you date. You can feel all the excitement and awesomeness you want… but don’t let that excitement convince you that what you’re feeling is more than just infatuation and the thrill of the new. Give new relationships time to breathe and develop before you start making grand declarations as to what they are. I suspect that once you start to tap the brakes and just give things time to cook on their own, you’ll have far fewer moments of relationships falling apart, even as they seem to just be revving up.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
Recently (about a year ago) I was in a 10 year committed relationship, or so I thought. Turns out he was manipulative, using my depression, weight, childhood traumas (victim of sexual assault), and my low self esteem against me to keep me with him. I had eventually figured out how unhappy I truly was with him and how practically our entire relationship he had multiple partners. I left him and found a sense of stability again. I joined a gym, so I could really start focusing on me. I’ve always been a self sacrificing person and always helping others before myself. I finally started thinking about myself and doing what I need for myself and I found a sense of freedom and saw my own worth. Gaining confidence I moved into my own place with my dog, and have been feeling so much better about myself and really being myself again.
Right now there’s a guy I really like. I know when I’m around him I sound like a giggly idiot and a bit socially awkward. He is an intelligent man. He knows I have a thing for him, but I have no idea if he likes me back in that way. He loves making me laugh and whenever we’re around each other we don’t stop talking the entire time. Even on evenings when he’s given me a ride home we will talk for even longer. I’ve seen him look at me and look away as soon as I look back. He always wants to be next to me and leans in whenever he interacts with me. We always have eye contact whenever we talk and have really started to get to know each other more. I feel like there’s something there, but it could all be that he just loves my company as a friend.
For now I’m doing my best not to develop romantic feelings for him because we are friends. I want to respect his friendship, his boundaries, and above all his feelings. I’m not sure what to do. I would love to have something more with him, but I don’t want to ruin what we have now. What should I do?
First of all, TS: congratulations for getting out of that toxic relationship and taking the time to heal and build yourself back up. That’s huge, and you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
But at the same time… you should acknowledge what you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve come. Right now it sounds to me like you haven’t quite accepted that someone could think you’re awesome and desirable because you were stuck in a relationship with a toxic and abusive shitbag. This is entirely understandable; relationships leave their mark on us and abusive ones can leave some pretty nasty scars. But there comes a point where you have to not let the ghosts of shitty boyfriends past continue to haunt you to the point that you’re second guessing yourself on a good thing.
This is kind of amusing, TS, because you have the exact opposite problem that Petite Morte does. While PM seems to be leaping into relationships with both feet and not bothering to look, you’re taking the opposite tact and just… not being willing to see the glaringly obvious. It sounds to me like this guy of yours is crazy for you. It’s equally clear that you’re crazy for him.
The problem here is that you’re treating your interest and attraction to him like it’s somehow an inconvenience or that your liking him impinges on his boundaries. Except… that’s not quite how boundaries work? It’d be one thing if he had a partner and the heat between the two of you was coming dangerously close to crossing a line. It would likewise be an issue if he had made it clear that he’d rather you didn’t flirt with him but you can’t stop being so giggly and touchy-feely with him. But none of that’s the case. You two hang out, you have an amazing time and apparently are dealing with the kind of mutual attraction so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Well, now one of you needs to make the first move and it might as well be you. Ask him out on a date — not to “hang out some time” or “get together” but an unambiguous and definitive date. Your being into him doesn’t mean that things need to — or even will — get weird. Let him know that it’s totally cool if he’s not interested or doesn’t want to risk things, because you’re cool with being friends too. Your being into him doesn’t mean you can’t be friends; it just means he’s an awesome guy and you’re understandably attracted to him. If you don’t make it a big deal, it won’t be a big deal. If he says “no” and things get a little awkward, then just power through the awkward. The risk of a couple vaguely uncomfortable moments before the two of you laugh at the absurdity of it is a small price to pay for the chance of starting something awesome with a really good guy you’re crazy for.
If you don’t mind, I’m going to skip the usual backstory, pharmacological history, and psychological self analysis, and get to the marrow of my question. When, exactly, did our society degrade to the point that it’s considered acceptable or normal for someone to simply break off all communication with someone, without so much as a “by your leave”?
It’s happened to me quite a few times in the recent past, and quite frankly it mystifies and offends me. It was bad enough when a woman would give me the “You’re a really sweet guy” speech, but this is even worse. (I assume that there are males who behave this way, too, but I only date women.)
Angry About This Maltreatment
Um… it’s always been the case that people could just stop talking to you, AATM. It’s part of the whole “having free will” thing. Nobody is obligated to talk to you if they don’t want to, nor are they required to ask your permission to stop, give you a reason or otherwise explain themselves if they don’t feel the need. It’s often polite or kind to say “hey, thanks but no thanks,” but folks have the right to be rude if they want to be.
That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t frequently suck, that it can’t be confusing or frustrating or depressing. But that’s on them.
Most of the time, that is. Because there’re plenty of times when folks will ghost because having that conversation is going to be a bigger issue… such as when, say, someone is radiating anger issues and is giving indications that saying “hey we didn’t work, peace out, cub scout” is going to trigger a scene. It sounds like you’re a step beyond wanting or preferring a conversation about it not working and getting to the point of feeling like you’re owed one and that ain’t how it works, chief. It kind of sucks if someone decides to vanish on you, but that’s their call. The only thing you can really do is make your peace with it, make your own closure and accept that this is a thing that people do, for a multitude of reasons.
And in the meantime, if you want to quit having people ghost on you like this, then the best thing you can do is start looking into some anger management counseling. ‘cuz if I can feel this radiating off you from an email? Then the people you’re dating can definitely feel it, and that’s gonna send them running like all of hell and half of Hoboken is after them.