So let’s say that you’ve been following my advice and you’ve met a woman, and for that first few months you’re in that glorious honeymoon period. Everything she does is amazing; the way her hips swish when she walks, the little clicking sound she makes with her tongue when she’s concentrating on something. Hell, you could probably just watch her sleep, if she didn’t think that was kinda creepy.
But when that initial rush has faded, things take on a slightly different tone. Those little habits you liked so much? Well, they’re kinda starting to get on your nerves. You don’t see your friends as often as you’d like, but damned if it doesn’t see like you’re getting dragged along to every coffee klatch, day trip and birthday bash that her friends throw. And maybe you’re walking around on eggshells now because she may not get mad and yell a lot but she’s got a way of making you feel like you’ve just run over a bunch of kittens.
So now you’re beginning to wonder… did you make a mistake when you decided to date her1? Are these signs that it’s time to run for the hills, or are they the little road-bumps that every relationship goes through? How are you supposed to know the difference, anyway?
It’s a mistake to think that relationships are always going to be nothing but rainbows and cotton candy unicorn farts. They’re hard work and any long-term relationship is going to have it’s ups and downs. But sometimes you need to know the difference between a rocky patch and warning signs that you need to get out. Warning signs like…
She Drains The Life From You
You’re a happy guy. You may not be the life of the party, but damned if you’re not getting out there and shaking things down with your buddies, cheering at the game or just having fun clowning around… at least until the phone rings and her name pops up on the caller ID. Suddenly, it’s like somebody flipped a switch; you were having the time of your life earlier and now you’re sullen slumped over. They may not hear what she’s saying, but everything coming from you are single-syllable responses. And when she hangs up – and she’s always the one to hang up first – you just never really match that level of energy you had earlier.
It’s not the first time your friends have noticed. When she’s around, you’re a different person. You’re quieter and more subdued. You’re not quite as quick to join in on the jokes and your laughter feels a little… apologetic. Your friends are starting to make plans without you because… well, frankly you kinda bring them down when she’s around, man.
You may not be the one to notice… but your friends sure as hell will. When they start referring to your girlfriend as the succubus, it’s time to start reconsidering things.
Not A Lot of Give, A Whole Lot of Take
Everybody agrees: one of the secrets of a successful relationship is compromise… it’s just too bad that most of the time it seems as though you’re the one doing all the compromising. It wasn’t such a big deal when you agreed to go with her to see The Help instead of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but you can’t remember the last time the two of you got a DVD from the RedBox that you wanted to see. And if you want to go to that street faire going on next weekend, you’re going to have to make some serious concessions to her plans.
It doesn’t end there. You may not have been living in a complete man-cave before she moved in, but damned if all signs of your taste has been relegated to one room… if you even have that much. But that’s ok, you always said interior design wasn’t really your strong suit. And, ok so your dinner plans are her dinner plans except on those rare occasions when you get to decide what and where you’re eating. But hey, it’s not that big of a deal right, she’s just a picky eater, right? And honestly it’s ok that you aren’t really allowed to watch your favorite shows while she’s around because that’s what DVRs are for. And besides, you’re kinda getting into Glee. Honestly.
It’s not that really something to be concerned about. After all, only a selfish asshole would insist on getting his way all the time and you’re certainly not selfish, are you? I mean, she’s always really good at pointing out when you are…
Which seems to be whenever you want to do something.
One of the things that people don’t always want to admit about relationships is that true equality is incredibly rare; there will always be an alpha partner and a beta parter, even when the difference is fairly minimal. However, relationships require balance in your interests and her interests. Nerds in love can have a tendency to be passive; they don’t want to rock the boat and they’ll bend over backwards to prove that they’re not being selfish or to make their significant other happy. This can lead to them dating women who are perfectly happy to walk all over them as though they had “Welcome” tattooed on their backs.
Keep in mind: getting your way sometimes isn’t the same as being selfish or controlling.
You Have No Privacy
There’s not a moment of your life that you can’t account for in great detail, often down to a minute-by-minute replay. If you’re on the phone or IMing somebody, she wants to know who you’re talking to. If you’re typing an email that’s longer than five words, she’s there reading over your shoulder. Your every interaction on Facebook is scrutinized like the Zapruder film and you’d better have a damn good reason to explain why hat cute girl you went to high school with just sent you a friend request.
And God forbid you leave anything out, because your girlfriend has an intelligence network that would make the Stasi proud.
But it’s ok, you can understand. She’s been cheated on before, so it’s very hard for her to trust anyone. It’s the least you can do, really. And honestly, there aren’t any secrets in a good relationship, are there?
Once again, this is a trap that geeks can find themselves falling into very easily; geeks have a tendency towards White Knight Syndrome and want to do everything they can to “save” their girl from herself and will bend over backwards to reassure her that no, no, everything’s just fine, you can trust me I’m one of the good ones.
This is classic abusive behavior. Her excuse that she’s been cheated on before is just that: an excuse. Whether she was – and frequently you’ll find that she wasn’t – the fact that she’s unable to get over it is her problem, not yours. Relationships are built on trust… and she’s using her lack of trust as a way to control you.
You Have No Life Without Her
The two of you do everything together. Since the day the two of you have gotten together, you’ve been joined at the hip like sexy conjoined twins. She’s such a part of your life that you can’t really remember a time when she wasn’t right there with you.
In fact, when you really stop and think about it, you have a hard time remembering the last time you had a guy’s night out. Or hung out with some of your friends. Or did anything separately besides go to class… and sometimes not even then.
No, wait… there was that night out two weeks ago when you went to your buddy’s house to watch the UFC match. Oh, right, that was the time she called you with that minor “emergency” that you had to come deal with right then. Then there was that time you went to hang out with your gaming group – after getting her permission, of course – which was great. For about two hours. Until she showed up and literally dragged you away so you could go clothes shopping with her.
Your friends have started referring to their ability to hang out with you as your being out on parole, and if you don’t check in with your PO, you’ll be in deep shit. And wouldn’t you know it? Like clockwork, something’s come up and you have to get back to her.
Togetherness is one thing. Your girlfriend acting like your jailor is another entirely.
It’s no real mystery why she wants to keep you away from your friends; you may be blind to how she’s treating you, but they’re not. And that makes them a threat to her control over you.
Sex Life? What Sex Life?
At first, the sex was awesome. You couldn’t keep your hands off each other. There wasn’t anything that you weren’t willing to try. Except for that one thing. You know. That one thing you really like? That little thing that gets you hard enough to fuck concrete just thinking about it? But hey, that’s life, right? Settling down means settling for, and you’re not going to have everything you want. Except… that’s the one thing that you really need to get off…
Or perhaps you have a “twice-a-day, and three times on Sundays” sex drive. While you were in that honeymoon phase, it was all sex all the time but now? Now you’re lucky if you’re getting it once a month. Of course, she’d probably be in the mood more if you’d help out around the house or complimented her on her looks or did the dishes…
Or worse: you’ve been cut off entirely. She’s now done with sex. For good. And by extension, so are you.
Or you like porn. Of course you do… you’re a guy. But her? She can’t stand it. And she can’t stand the fact that you look at it. In her eyes, it’s disgusting and degrading and no man in her life would ever like such filth. In fact, as far as she’s concerned, every orgasm you have that doesn’t involve you fantasizing about her and only is tantamount to cheating.
Even in this day and age, men in American culture are still often seen as sexual beasts who are ruled by their libidos while women are more emotionally driven and have to reign in their men’s out-of-control desires. Any man who complains about his sex life – whether it’s the frequency or a partner’s unwillingness to indulge him in a fantasy or kink or about being cut off entirely – is a boor and an asshole who doesn’t understand that relationships are about more than sex and complaining about that one, teensy part of it is clearly in the wrong. This makes a sexually unfulfilling relationship an easy trap to fall into and hard to climb out of.
The fact of the matter is, sexual compatibility is one of the most critical parts of a relationship. Fundamental incompatibility, whether it’s out of synch libidos or unfulfilled kinks or even differing opinions on pornography, sexuality or monogamy is the death-knell of a happy relationship.
This isn’t to say that, as with any other part of a relationship, there can’t be compromises. Both partners have an obligation to be good, giving and game, to steal a line from the inestimable Dan Savage and sexual desire will wax and wane in every relationship. But when there are times that no compromise can be made on one part or the other, it’s time to consider whether remaining in that relationship is worth the price of entry.
Someone Sent Us Up The Drama Bomb
Nobody ever said relationships couldn’t be exciting. Your relationship is so exciting that you’re constantly on edge. Dating her is like constantly tip-toeing through a minefield, knowing that any wrong move will cause another explosion. You are never sure what’s going to set her off or how she’s going to react. Maybe she’s going to get pissed at you for something you said while you were standing in line for tickets at the movies and she’s going to have that discussion RIGHT THE HELL NOW. At the top of her lungs.
Or perhaps she catches you looking at another girl while you’re at the mall and she stalks off. Now you’re having to devote all your time to finding her and calming her down instead of getting those clothes you needed for that job interview.
You never know what the triggers are going to be, so you have to spend your every waking moment trying to keep her happy. There’s no sense of proportion to what will set her off and how she’ll react; she may suddenly become incredibly icy and calm or she may scream at you and throw things. You’re dating Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde and you can never be sure which one of them is going to show up to the party. And of course, it’s always your fault; you know she’s high-strung and really how could you be so insensitive?
Once again, this is classic abusive behavior, and one that nerds have a tendency to either not recognize or to blame themselves for. It’s entirely too easy to internalize accusations – that it’s your fault she gets upset and you should have known better and accept them as gospel truth.
In the end, there’s only one thing you can do: realize it’s not your fault. And then get the hell out of that relationship.
- For the record, despite my use of the female pronoun, these signs apply equally to men as to women, and to homosexual relationships as well as hetero ones… more so in some cases. Beware anyone who justifies these warning signs as “that’s just how [BLANK] relationships are.” [↩]