If you have a moment, I was wondering if you could help me with a problem.
For some reason, I can’t help but compare my relationship with others around me. Today, my girlfriend pointed out that one of her friends was celebrated his 6 month anniversary with his new girlfriend and for the occasion, he bought her a diamond necklace. Nice, right? As soon as she told me this, my brain started piling on the normal sort of guilt I get.
My girlfriend of 9 months, for the most part, is pretty easygoing and for some reason doesn’t expect much from me. She’s told me several times that she’s perfectly happy just being together and doesn’t need all the fancy things all the other guys do for and get their girlfriends. However, when I see what all the other guys do, I can’t help but feel inadequate.
I’m a man of very little means. My job pays barely anything. It’s just enough to pay the bills but it doesn’t leave me much money for anything else. Most days, I can barely afford to go out for a sandwich with my girl. I constantly wish I could do more; bring her flowers, buy her nice things but I just can’t afford to do all those romantic gestures. Occasionally, my girlfriend will make the comment along the lines of “it would be nice if you could do those things” but then immediately back-pedal and say that what I’m doing is enough. But I don’t feel like I’m doing enough.
How do I get out of this mindset, Doc? I want to be able to just enjoy my relationship without getting depressed every time I see a couple doing more.
Broke As A Joke
Someone forgot to tell me that life has officially started imitating The Simpsons.
You know you don’t have much money. You’re dating someone who knows you don’t have much money and has told you over and over again that she understands and accepts what you can and can’t afford and is, in fact, quite happy with you. So why the hell are you insisting on making yourself insane by refusing to take “yes” for an answer?
So far, it seems the only person who’s having a problem with your income level is… well, you. Unless your girlfriend is particularly passive-aggressive, she’s not trying to hint that she wants you to drown her in diamonds and provide her with the lifestyle to which she intends to become accustomed. The fact that one of her friends bought his girlfriend a diamond necklace for their six month anniversary is notable because maybe it’s a little over the top, no? This isn’t her dropping bombs on your ego, she’s just sharing something wacky that her friend did and isn’t that kinda nuts when you’ve only been dating for half a year? Takes all kinds, I guess.
So she mentioned that it’d be nice if you could buy her flowers or take her out to dinner. So what? It would be nice! I imagine she’d be thrilled if you bought her a pair of earrings or a bouquet of flowers or hired a sky writer to emblazon her name across the sky… because who wouldn’t be? But – as she is quick to tell you – she’s not asking for that and she’s happy with you. If she’s not dropping little hints like this every couple of days, then maybe you should just assume that yeah, she’d like it if things were different, but they’re not and she’s still with you anyway.
Be honest with yourself: do you really think that she went into this relationship under the assumption that you were going to suddenly come into riches beyond dreams of avarice? Or do you think she came in with her eyes wide open, understanding that the economy sucks, better paying jobs are hard to find and you’re doing the best you can with what you have right now? It’s not like you don’t have ambition, or that you’re blowing your money on weed, lottery tickets and video games, right?
Here’s a hint: she’s been with you for nine months. That’s a pretty good clue that she knows and accepts you for who you are and what you have to offer. If she wanted diamonds and showers of rose petals and hot and cold running Veuve Clicquot she would’ve moved on by now.
You need to do two things. First of all: disconnect the idea of romance or special gestures from a price tag. A woman who cares about you – and, critically, understands that you’re broke – isn’t going to require expensive gestures from you. You can still show her how much you care and how romantic you are on the cheap. You obviously have the Internet so use it to your advantage! You can plan awesome, romantic dates around free events in your area; use Yelp, Craigslist, Citysearch, even Facebook to find free concerts, performances, events. Make a picnic lunch – even if it’s just bread and cheese – go to the park and lay back in the soft grass and watch the clouds float by while holding her hand. Buy a single flower, even if it’s just a daisy, and give it to her just because. Do some searching for coupons and sales and you can even do something heartfelt and memorable; It doesn’t have to be expensive; you could use one of the many services on line to print a photobook of her favorite photos of the two of you together, for example.
If you want to splurge a bit on something fancy, start saving up now. Cut your expenses where you can and put the money aside and just keep contributing to the “do something awesome for my girlfriend” fund out of every paycheck.
Second: quit looking at other people as the yardstick for your relationship. You don’t want to define your success by somebody else’s efforts; otherwise we’re all fucked because none of us are going to improve on this guy:
I’ve been talking to a girl from one of my classes for a couple of weeks now, We’ve been getting along great and have a lot in common. After a couple of weeks ago, she wanted to head to this pool party at my dorm (she commutes). After the party, she asked if we could head back to my room to charge her phone. We head back to my place and start swapping funny stories when suddenly asks about the dorm sex etiquette my roommates and I had. After this she went on to tell me a couple of stories about almost getting caught having sex. I laughed, added commentary but didn’t add my own funny sex stories (as I have none, only had sex twice) In the end, we just ended up hanging out for a couple of hours, then I saw her off. This happened 2 weeks ago, nothing’s appeared to change in the way we treat each other (nothing awkward), but it feel as though we hangout a little less.
Was I oblivious to a hint?
Does she think I’m not interested? Is this salvageable? How do I get back to that situation?
– Sexless In Seattle
Let me tell you a story.
There was a point during college where I was working (very, very briefly) as a cartoonist for the school paper. It didn’t last very long because frankly I wasn’t that good. But that’s beside the point. The newspaper office was in the basement of my dorm. One night, this one girl I’d talk to occasionally and thought was pretty cute came down while I was working and hung out while I was putting the finishing touches on that week’s drawing. She saw that the illustration I was working on was manga-styled and wanted to know if I liked anime. I did and as we were talking she mentioned that she enjoyed japanese cartoon porn and thought it was hilarious. In fact, she had a couple back in her room, (Urotsukidoji and La Blue Girl to be specific) and maybe I’d like to come watch it with her. In her room. Alone. Just the two of us.
At the time I hadn’t realized that women are socialized to be indirect, especially when it comes to sex. I also didn’t realize that it was possible for women to find me attractive at all. As a result: said “sounds cool, but my deadline’s tomorrow, so I need to finish this.”
It took me half a damn year to realize that she was basically saying “Would you like to come back to my place for a hot cup of FUCK MY BRAINS OUT?”
Your friend wanted to come back to your room with you. Alone. She wanted to talk about sex. She wanted to talk about her having sex. She was making sure that the image of her having sex was going to be implanted in your brain. She wanted to know what your etiquette was for keeping your roommate out should it turn out to be business time.
It’s entirely possible that she was just enjoying talking about sex. But I’m willing to bet a not insignificant amount of money that she was hoping you were going to take the damn hint and make a move already.
You didn’t, which tells her either a) you missed the hint or b) you deliberately ignored the hint. Either way, you told her you weren’t interested and in all likelihood she’s moved on from the idea.
Could it be salvaged? Theoretically. But to be perfectly honest, the odds are against you.
But at least this time you know what to look for the next time around.