Dear Dr. NerdLove,
My situation is probably like many you’ve heard, but I’m hoping you give me some advice on what I’m doing right/wrong.
I got engaged in July to a girl I had been dating for two-and-a-half years only to have her breakup with me just a couple months later. She cited a litany of issues with both me and herself, mostly aiming at what she claimed was me not listening to her/caring about what she had to say.
For some context, she has been married before to a man who was emotionally and physically abusive. She wanted out of that relationship for a long time but he refused to grant her a divorce. Somehow she finally got one and moved several states away to get some distance and time to heal. Though from our time together it seemed like anytime she got upset with me it all stemmed back to what had happened to her with that or other previous relationships. And I was definitely guilty of the same thing from time to time.
She has a big jealous streak that came out very early in our relationship and some days it was really hard to convince her that no other girl stood a chance because she was who I wanted to be with. Her insecurities didn’t affect me for a long time, but I think it started to bring some of my own back to the surface because I found myself feeling that way toward her near the end.
I’ve had serious relationships before and even one where the talk of marriage was getting very serious. Still, I had never gone so far as actually proposing before. I had seen a change in her from the beginning of 2013 that I knew in the back of my mind was a big red flag, but I pushed it away thinking I was just being paranoid. But then I kept pushing for her to tell me why she had become so distant and cold toward me. She finally broke down in late August and said she just couldn’t do it anymore. She was unhappy with herself as the stress of being in school had led to her gaining weight, her family issues (which were many) and then me. She felt like I didn’t just let her vent when she needed to and I do accept responsibility for that. It was something she had brought up before and we’d had a fight about months prior that I tried to work on, but slipped back into bad habits.
After she left that night, she deleted me and all my friends and family from facebook and I haven’t heard from her since. It’s been about two months now. I’ve made no effort to contact her because, given how she’s treated this situation, I don’t think it would do any good. I miss her every day and wish nothing more than to find a way to work it out. I’m concentrating on work, friends, working out and enjoying my comics (which she never openly admitted to hating, but I could tell). Am I approaching this the right way? Is a strict no-contact rule really the best thing when this is the woman I had planned to spend the rest of my life with? It seems cold to me, but somehow contacting her seems like a bad idea, too. Like this is really a true no-win situation.
I feel very silly now, because I know for sure she wasn’t cheating on me and didn’t have a guy she was interested in. My own paranoia got the better of me when it shouldn’t have. But her behavior was very confusing. When I would text or call her she acted like it was bothersome, but then she complained that I never texted her during the day while I was at work. Then, she complained that when we would see each other on the weekends she felt smothered. We lived in separate cities and took turns driving to each other on the weekends.
I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to now. I’ve backed off completely, I’ve given her space and I’m not trying to find out anything about her from her friends/family and I obviously couldn’t see what’s going on with her on facebook even if I really wanted to. But dealing with the hurt is still just as bad as it was the night we ended. Even after I put away everything that reminded me of her or the good times we had. I’m worried that if/when I do start dating again that I’m going to wind up afraid of commitment and cut and run the first time it gets brought up.
Sorry for the long letter, but I felt context was needed. And I could really use some advice here because I’m trying the things people say to do, but so far nothing’s really helping that much.
Thanks for your help,
Once Burned, Twice Shy
What we’ve got here is… failure… to communicate.
When you’ve got somebody who says one thing and does another, completely opposite thing, then you’re dealing with somebody who is bad at communicating at best and actively playing games at worst. From what you’re describing, nothing you were going to do was going to be “right”. Basically, you got Kobiyashi Maru’d. No matter what you did, something was going to rub her the wrong way and set her off. Called at night when you’re free? She’s annoyed because you’re interrupting something she’s working on. Drove out to see her for the only time you could during the weekend? She’s going to get annoyed because she needs her space. The conditions she set were essentially impossible – pay attention when you couldn’t, give her space on the few times you actually saw her… it was going to be a shit-show no matter what.
Now it’s going to be tempting to chalk this up to “bitch be cray” and make her the villain of the piece, but to be perfectly honest, I think she was hurting pretty badly herself. The fact that she had a massive and completely irrational jealous streak right from the get-go should have been a massive red-flag – she was showing signs of having deep-seated trust and control issues. If I were to play armchair psychologist1 then I’d guess that she hadn’t so much as “healed” from her previous relationship as “buried everything and hoped for the best.”
Abusive relationships leave scars, both physical and emotional. Abusers tend to make their victims feel as though they can’t trust anyone but the abuser, that they can’t even rely on their own feelings and that they are the problem, not the one causing the abuse. That’s some heavy shit to try to recover from and it can be incredibly difficult to work through by yourself, especially if it was over a period of years. You would know better than we would whether she ever sought out help in dealing with what happened to her… or whether she’s likely to seek any now. Hopefully she is, because it sounds like she’s still profoundly unhappy.
And so are you.
Of course, you’re hurting too. And it’s understandable – this is a a fresh wound, and it’s a deep one. You were hoping to spend your life with this woman; this break-up isn’t the sort of thing that you can recover from quickly and it’s going to take time to heal. Part of why it’s important to cut all ties is because it keeps you from picking at the scabs. You’re never going to heal if you’re constantly checking to see what she’s doing, if she’s seeing anybody, if she’s thinking about you.
It’s ok to think about her. It’s good to worry about her. It’s great to remember the good times that you’ve had with her. But you need to focus on you right now, just like she needs to focus on her. Don’t worry about dating; in fact, just consider it off the table for the immediate future, and a committed relationship is even further off. Put your focus where it belongs right now: recovering from an unpleasant break-up. Let yourself heal, and everything else will fall into place.
Hey Dr. NerdLove,
Me and my girlfriend have been going out for 5-6 months now and I need some advice. The first 4 months were fantastic, she would be eager to meet up with me, start conversations, tell me about her day; just lots of little things that made me feel happy and wanted.
Last week she told me that really she didn’t like being touched, that she hated all those ‘physical’ times together and that she’s really not that romantic and ‘that’s just how she is’.
I told myself maybe that IS how she is and decided to give the relationship a proper shot, especially as how I think we’re pretty much out of the ‘honeymoon’ phase now. The thing is I found her blog and everything she posts is either about:
a) How attractive guy x or guy y is (and she never says I look good or compliments me ever)
b) Her favorite love scenes from her favorite Sci-Fi. She spends more time blogging about how the characters love made her cry and all the feelings she gets, than actually talking with me recently.
What should I do Dr.? Part of me feels like I should just end it because I feel like recently I’m the one doing all the heavy lifting only for her to blow me off to spend time looking at other romances on tumblr (and we only see each other like, once every 2 weeks recently). Part of me is hoping that she’ll realise all the things she blogs about is right there in front of her (well I’m no Zachery Levi …) she just has to make a little effort.
Bewitched and Bewildered
Oh god you two sound so very young.
I hate to say this, BB, but this relationship is over. The only question is whether you’re going to end it quickly or let it linger until it festers.
She’s saying she doesn’t like to be touched, never has, never liked getting physical with you and just isn’t that romantic… even as she’s gushing on Tumblr about her glorious feels for her favorite OTPs. It’s possible that something’s happened that she doesn’t want to talk about and it’s freaked her out, but I’m kind of doubting it. I’m thinking she’s young and a little immature and is slamming her fist on the “relationship self-destruct” button. Maybe she’s lying about how she never liked being physical and not being romantic, maybe she isn’t… but she’s making it abundantly clear where she stands on things and waiting around for her to come to her senses isn’t going to help. She knows you’re right there, you’re just not what she wants.
Dump her and move on. Find someone who actually wants what you have to offer and you’ll be much happier.
So first of all, your audience includes at least three types. There’s people unhappy with their love lives; advice-column junkies; and – in my case – happily married nerds who found your site when a feminist blog linked “Nerds and Male Privilege“, read it, started looking around, and realized “I have a friend this site would be *perfect* for” … then bookmarked it cuz it’s fun to watch you write.
It was a good recommendation, too. “Every time I go to Dr. Nerdlove I see an article that’s exactly what I need to read”, he said yesterday, and I see him making progress. He’s putting on a better display of self-confidence, radiating less neediness, approaching women more readily and optimistically, making a decent personals ad for himself.
He’s also 21 years and, despite recent progress, has never been on a proper date. I think he’s handicapping himself in a way that may or may not be fixable, which is what I’d like your opinion on: he finds very, very few women attractive. And the women he *does* find attractive are the TV-show-beautiful ones that have an endless supply of offers to choose among.
It’s not even that he has a hard time finding other women interesting as people — in that case, I wouldn’t be helping him. He has no problem enjoying long conversations and hanging-out with women. But for dating purposes, he essentially finds 90% of women ugly, and has recently turned away from signs of possible romantic interest for that reason alone.
Is there anything he could do to broaden his own tastes? Or is he stuck waiting around for a small number of long-shot, high-competition opportunities?
Here’s what’s going to happen with your friend: either he’s going to spend all of his time and effort on trying to win over an incredibly tiny pool of women who meet his standards or he’s going to relax them on his own and realize there’s all kinds of amazing women out there that he’s been ignoring or rejecting. It’s his right to decide that only the most elite of the elite will do, dumping women or refusing to pursue them for the flimsiest of reasons… and he’s going to have to deal with the consequences. If he’s narrowed his focus like a laser, then he’s going to have to accept that there will be very few women who meet his standards and he’s going to have to bring a lot to the table… and odds are that he’s going to be single for a long, long time.
It’s great to have standards, but the more exacting they are, the longer a list you have as to why you’re still single. As I always like to ask: “So… how’s that workin’ out for ya?”
Maybe he’s sabotaging himself and only going for women he knows are out of his reach. Maybe he wants a super-hot girlfriend to prove how far he’s come. Maybe he’s got an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Or maybe he’s just 21 and he’ll start realizing that his insanely high standards are keeping him single and start to realize that there are millions of amazing women out there that he’s been turning his nose up at.
Just remember the next time he complains about being single to point out that he’s chosen this for himself and he can remedy it just as easily.
- Doctor NerdLove is NOT a real doctor [↩]