Doctor’s Note: Hey NerdLovers! It’s a new year and I want to help start 2021 off on a positive note. So I want to hear from you: what are some of your relationship wins? How have you improved your personal life, your friendships or your romantic relationships? What are some of the ways you’ve made your life better recently? Let’s share some hope, some positivity and success to help inspire folks to achieve their own victories.
Send your success stories to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header “relationship wins”; maybe you’ll see your success story in a future column.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I’m in my first new relationship in 10 years and things are going really great! We’ve been together for over 3 months now and we really love and care about each other. However, due to the pandemic situation, we aren’t doing anything physical yet. As a result, there’s been a lot of talking about sex, what we like/don’t, and definitely sexting which has all been great to do with each other in the meantime!
The thing is, I’m a virgin and my girlfriend is not. This, in itself, doesn’t bother me at all, especially when we’re both mid-late 20’s. To her credit, she has been incredibly supportive and understanding of any insecurities I have about losing my virginity, which has been so good for me. Luckily, we seem to be very compatible sexually too!
The hang-up I’m having comes from the conversations we’ve had about sex and what she likes and wants to do in bed. Naturally, much of what I’ve learned about her in this area comes from things she’s done with her ex. My girlfriend has only expressed having good sexual experiences, which is definitely music to my ears for her sake. But when I look at myself, someone with no experience (eager as they are to learn and pleasure their partner), I find myself feeling like I won’t be able to satisfy her as well has her ex did. I’m not even specifically talking about our first time, more just in general.
I haven’t really talked to her about this issue specifically because I know what she’ll say: that she loves me and she’s not comparing me to her ex like that. And I believe her! She also has never made any comments specifically about “how great he was” or anything of the sort. And she definitely does not deserve to be asked about it from me either. But there’s just something within me that wants to prove to myself (and kind of to her as well) that I can be her best partner; better than that last guy.
What can I tell myself to stop worrying about being the “best” when I know there’s no way of knowing (unless she tells me herself one day)?
– The Competitive Novice
First of all TCN: congratulations on your new relationship! Your girlfriend sounds awesome, and a great match for you… especially as your first time.
It’s just a shame that your jerk-brain is making you feel a little insecure about things. But thing is… that’s all it is: your jerk brain and random feelings, not truth or prophecy. And to be perfectly fair, that’s a really common insecurity. A lot of folks — mostly men, but definitely women and non-binary people too — worry that being a virgin means that they’re going to be at a disadvantage when it comes to satisfying their partner. This is especially true if their partner has had a long or varied dating history; they worry that their lack of experience is going to mean that they couldn’t possibly measure up in some way.
But that’s not true at all.
Now one of the reasons for this is that people tend to get very rules-lawyer-y about virginity and treat penetration as the end-all/be-all of losing one’s virginity. If you didn’t get your end in — or have someone get inside of you — then it doesn’t “count”. But a lot of folks who are virgins aren’t complete blank slates, who’ve never been physical with a partner at all. Lots of people may never have had penetrative sex but have still had or performed oral sex, mutual masturbation or any number of other sex acts and are, in fact, quite good at them.
(And if penetration is your end-all/be-all for “losing one’s virginity”… well, there’re a lot of gay men and lesbians who are lifelong virgins… but still have a hell of a lot of sex.)
But the other reason is that good sex isn’t about the numbers. A person could have partners that number into the triple or quadruple digits… but still suck in bed. Yes, they’ve had a lot of sex, but rarely with the same person more than once. Meanwhile, a person could be a provider of mind-blowing orgasms, even though you can count the total number of partners they’ve had on the fingers of one hand with plenty to spare. That’s because great sex isn’t about pure technique or how many times you’ve inserted Tab A into Slot B; it’s about the connection between you and the person you’re sleeping with. It’s about paying attention to your partner — both what they’re saying, but also how they’re responding. It’s about learning their cues, their preferences and just what they like and when. And it’s about being willing to discuss what you’re into, what you need, what you’d like to try, what are your “maybes” and your hard “no’s”. These are all things that take time, intimacy and communication.
And that, TCN, is where you’re actually doing everything right. In fact, if I’m being perfectly honest TCN, you’re already doing everything that I’d be telling you to do. The fact that you and she have been having these conversations and sexting back and forth and talking about the fact that hey, you don’t have much experience in this particular arena are all part of how you set yourself up for some great sex when you both feel like you’re ready.
But the thing that you need to keep in mind is that the part that’s screwing you up isn’t about the likelihood of how good the sex will or won’t be — either for your first time or overall. What’s getting you is your ego. You seem to be coming at this like you have something to prove… almost like you want to compensate for being a virgin in your 20s. So hey, if you can show that you’re some fuck-prodigy, wouldn’t that be awesome? Yes, except not really. Because here’s the thing: you have nothing to prove, man. You aren’t in competition with anyone else — not her last boyfriend, not other dudes she may have gone on dates with before you, not anyone. You know this because hey, she’s dating you. You can stop pitching, you’ve already made the sale. It’s fait accompli at this point, all over but the squishy noises. What’s going to happen next is going to be you and her getting to know each other physically, getting to know each other’s bodies and responses and making it all work. And that’s going to be a collaborative exercise, not a case of your standing on stage and being told “alright, show me what you can do, stud.” The physical aspect of every relationship is different, and getting to know each other means that you’re both going from off-the-rack to bespoke fucking. That’s something the two of you do together, not something that one does and the other gives a rating to. It’s a holistic endeavour, something that’s about the both of you.
Y’know. Kind of like your relationship overall.
What you need to do is worry less about your ranking and focus more on being present in the moment. And that means not just when you two can get together for some physical time but while you’re flirting and sexting and getting each other rev’d up. The more you put your attention on that moment, not some theoretical dick-measuring future, the better the connection will be between you and your girlfriend… and the better the sex will be too.
With another polarizing election behind us, it is pretty obvious that the political divide isn’t going to mend anytime soon. We all see it on dating apps when women write “don’t bother if you voted for [insert candidate here].” But my question isn’t about the view differences between myself and a potential lover… it’s about the view differences between her and the rest of my family.
A majority of my family (plus extended family) don’t exactly share the views I have when it comes to politics. Despite this and plenty of heated debates, we still manage to have a great relationship. However, when it comes to dating I’m concerned about being guilty by association.
I have sabotaged several communications with women who really liked me only because of the worry that I’d be pitting their political & social views against my family’s…. and eventually ruining both relationships. It’s a fear that has held me back so much that I even had to speak to a therapist about it. Am I overthinking this? How can my love life and family life live in harmony? I wouldn’t want to put her in an uncomfortable setting and can only dream of both parties really loving each other.
Thanks in advance!
Two Party System
Seeing as we just had a historic election last Tuesday and an equally historic attempted insurrection as Trump’s fanbase tried to take senators hostage and murder the vice president… I think “political divide” is putting it a little too goddamn mildly.
But let’s leave that aside for a second.
What you’re doing, TPS, is what’s known as “borrowing trouble from the future”. You’ve taken this vague worry — that you and your future partner’s politics will conflict with your family’s and this will destroy your entire relationship — and turned it into prophecy. Either they won’t believe that you don’t have the same politics as them — that whole guilt by association thing — or that this potential future fight will be so horrific and all-consuming that you will lose both your family and your future partner.
Except… you don’t actually have any experience of this happening at all. You’ve got a lot of speculation, a lot of imagination and pretty much no actual experience with it in real life. And while I’m sure you can find any number of random anecdotes or Am I The Asshole posts that may seem to back this fear up, those don’t actually count. Even leaving aside the ones that are pure creative writing exercises: the people involved aren’t your family, nor are they any future girlfriend. There’re reasons why the plural of “anecdote” isn’t “data”, after all.
But let’s look at the actual facts here. You and your family, despite having wildly different political views, have managed to keep your relationship strong. Like a lot of folks in mixed religious/atheist households, vegetarian/carnivore households or other diametrically opposed issues, you’re able to make things work, even your different stances make everyone want to grind their teeth into powder and smack the other up with a Howard Zinn omnibus. Assuming that you and/or your family aren’t, say, QAnons or COVID deniers, think that there were “very good people on both sides” at the Unite The Right event in Charlottesville or think that the attempted insurrection is an Antifa false-flag operation, it is theoretically possible to at least have a “we’re going to draw a line and we do not cross this line no matter how heated things get” sort of set up. That can go a long way to keeping a family as a family… even if you’re back to the “dual-wielding Disobedience and Democracy, roll for initiative” stage over dinner.
And I’d point out: there are lots of folks who date and marry people whose families are gold-plated shitheads. Sometimes everyone is able to come together or even help bring people around. Sometimes it ends with the couple deciding that they’re not going to spend time with the fam until said fam gets their act together.
But that’s all theoretical, not actual. One of the bigger things to realize is that this, presumably isn’t going to just be you throwing your new girlfriend into the deep end with no warning. Ignoring how long it may or may not take you to get to the “meet the family” stage, I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t be giving your theoretical future girlfriend a heads up that you’re the political black sheep of the family. Giving your squeeze the basic rundown of the family dynamic is — or should be — standard issue before bringing her to your cousin’s wedding/nephew’s bat mitzvah/little brother’s birthday. That gives you time to work out how you’re going to handle any thorny topics that need to be avoided or handled with care — political or otherwise.
And, I would hope it goes without saying, that I hope neither your family or anyone you date is the sort who goes out of their way to pick fights with folks over politics; that’s a headache of a different color entirely.
TL;DR: stop writing your break-up story before you’ve even had your first date. Focus on finding someone awesome that you click with, build a relationship to the point of actually introducing her to the folks, then figure out how to navigate family functions. And hey: it’s much easier to weather the slings and arrows of family political arguments when the two of you can present a united front and give each other the backup you need.