It’s been a truism from the dawn of time that people have felt that they have the right — even the duty — to comment on other people’s relationships. I’m fairly certain that if we were to go deep into the Lascaux caves, a full third of the paintings would be about how Thag and Cronk were just not right for each other and isn’t it a shame that Thag never seems to get it?
This has been especially true for celebrities and people in the public eye; society can’t get enough about various celebs’ romantic shenanigans, whether it was speculating about Rock Hudson’s marriage to the real story about Tom and Nicole, or pretty much the entire British royal family. Even streamers and YouTubers come under fire for their relationships, whether it’s being friends with the “wrong” people, who they’re dating or the shock and “betrayal” of finding out that they’re not actually single. So it really isn’t a surprise that supposedly well-meaning people feel free to stick their noses into the relationships of private citizens. Hell, some people apparently get upset when their friends date the “wrong” person because they’d much rather see them with this specific other person.
And in fairness: there’re plenty of times when people will do so out of a sense of genuine concern. The people who care about us want us to be happy, and they may be concerned that the person we’re seeing isn’t right for us or is actually making us actively miserable. But at the end of the day, relationships aren’t a democracy. People can have their opinions about who we date — can’t stop people from thinking — but they don’t get a vote. And there comes a point where voicing that opinion gets outright obnoxious.
If I’m being honest, FOTNLP, I’m scratching my head because quite frankly, I’m not really seeing a problem here. While speaking strictly for myself, I don’t know if I’d necessarily be happy in a relationship with what seems like relatively little emotional support, but you seem more than satisfied with it. And hey, if that’s the case, then that is the literal definition of “not actually a problem”. It’s just a quirk of your relationship, and everyone’s relationships will have quirks that only make sense to the people in the relationship. Similarly, nothing you describe sounds like something that would set of reasonable people’s Spidey-sense. Your boyfriend may not be the most publically demonstrative person in the world, but it’s hardly a warning sign if a couple isn’t professing their love constantly to the world.
(Actually, the opposite is frequently true…)
Now, you mention that you have a history of abusive relationships, so it’s possible that your friends are trying to look out for you and see any deviation from the Hallmark Movie norm of romance to be a warning sign. But unless they’re actually saying something more specific than “he just seems not normal,” then I’m not entirely sure what their problem is.
Ok actually, that’s not true. Some of what you describe sounds a little like behavior that’s frequently coded as autistic or falling on the autism spectrum, and the people insisting that this isn’t “normal” or “too weird” may be responding to that. But whether that’s the case with your boyfriend or not, that’s a them problem, not a him problem or a you problem, and they can deal with their ableism on their own time. Their discomfort isn’t your problem, nor is it an issue with your relationship.
Whether your boyfriend is “normal” or not really isn’t the point though. Normal is frequently overrated, especially when falling outside the (incredibly narrow) boundaries gets pathologized and treated as something to be corrected. At the end of the day, what matters is that his “weirdness” really works for you on many levels. You feel at ease with him, you’ve become more independent and self-reliant and you and he seem to have worked things out so that you know how to communicate in ways that help ensure that your needs are being met. That sounds pretty damn good to me. And frankly, it sounds to me like you’re pretty damn happy with how things are.
And if that’s the case? Fuck what everyone else thinks. It works for you, you’re happy and you’ve grown in positive ways because of him. That’s a very good thing. So my suggestion is that the first time they mention that he seems weird, you reply “Yup! And his weird matches my weird, it’s great!” If they bring up that this isn’t a “normal” relationship, then you can say “No, but it works great for us!” If they persist, that’s when it’s time to draw some boundaries; “I told you that I’m happy and this relationship works for me. I’d appreciate it if you’d stop bringing it up.” If they continue, that’s when you get blunt: “I didn’t ask for your opinion, and I’ve asked you to stop bringing this up. Either appreciate that I’m happy or step the hell off.”
Regardless: it sounds like this is a good relationship for the both of you, and that’s something to be happy about. I’m glad you and he have both found somebody who fits you in the ways you need. The nosy busybodies can go screw, while you two continue to enjoy your complementary weirdness.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I am 20 years old and openly bisexual. I’ve also recently determined that I am aromantic.
Problem is: I don’t want to be aromantic. I want to fall in love. I want to get married one day. I want to find someone who I want to spend time with and be with for the rest of my life. I just can’t picture myself ever feeling that way about someone.
I used to think that if I just put myself out there and started dating, I could build that sort of relationship with someone but I always just end up disappointed and exhausted. I also feel really guilty about having to tell those people that I don’t want to pursue a relationship with them, when it’s entirely my fault.
I’m pretty introverted, so I’m okay being alone for the most part, but I don’t want to be alone forever. How do I come to terms with this? Is there any way for me to still find a lasting and fulfilling relationship?
So Tired of Being Alone
So, a few things, STBA. First and foremost is the very simple fact that you’re 20 years old. I don’t bring this up to say that being aromantic is something that you will grow out of; rather, that you’re really young, and it’s far, far too early to make grand pronouncements about the rest of your life. While it can feel like you have charted the course of your entire existence and know exactly how things will end, the truth is that you have, on average, 60 years or more ahead of you. That’s a lot of time for things to change in ways that will surprise and astound you. Trust me: the version of me at 20 would never have dreamed that current me could ever possibly exist; it would’ve blown his goddamn mind if he’d known.
Hell, you’d be amazed at how many things can change and surprise you within ten years. Or five.
So I wouldn’t resign yourself to being Forever Alone just yet, even as an aromantic person.
At the same time, I think you’re making a mistake about what your future relationships may look like or what shape they may take. Being aromantic may well mean that, yes, you won’t fall in love in the classical sense. You may well never get that experience of limerence, or the oxytocin-rush of falling for somebody. But that doesn’t mean that you are doomed to never be married or to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. There are many different kinds of love, after all. While you may not necessarily feel classical romantic love, presumably you love your family. That’s one kind of love. Similarly, you care for your friends; that’s another kind of love. None of these are less important, less meaningful or less significant than the idea of love we think of when we think of romance and marriage. Those all lead to important, fulfilling, long-lasting — even life-long — relationships that are no less meaningful for not being “romantic”.
But there’s also the fact that people get married for reasons other than romantic love. There are many folks who have what are known as “companionate” marriages — their relationship may not be romantic (or sexual, for that matter) but is instead about companionship and comfort and enjoying each other’s company and having them in each other’s lives. Close friends may well decide to get married; they may not love each other in the romantic sense, but make such good partners that getting married and spending their lives together makes sense to them. You and a cohort of friends may even decide to create your own mini-commune; buying adjoining apartments or a large communal living space and just having your own little pod.
By that same token, nobody says that your relationship needs to look like anyone else’s, especially not the stereotypical marriage. You could, for example, have someone in your life who you’re sexually attracted to, who is a good friend and partner, and not live together. You can be married and have separate bedrooms or, hell, separate houses or apartments if you’ve got the resources. That’s the great thing about life: there’s absolutely no reason to follow a path that doesn’t work for you. You can blaze your own trail and find the relationship or relationships, plural, and style that works for you.
You also don’t need to date traditionally if that’s not for you. If it’s not something you’re interested in, then don’t. Just be social and make friends. If you want to have a monogamous sex partner, but without the expectation of romance or romantic love… well, that might be a trickier needle to thread, but it can still be done. It may be harder to find someone who wants that specific kind of relationship, but it’s not impossible. You might also find that a casual sexual relationship works best for you, or a friend with benefits suits your needs. There’s no law saying that you need to live your life that way. The more you understand yourself and your needs, the better able you’ll be to start custom-building the life that fits them. Like I said to Fending Off The Normie Love Police: you may not be “normal”, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t find someone who’s weird matches your weird in ways that work for both of you.
What you shouldn’t do is assume that everything is foretold and there’s nothing you can do. Your future may or may not look the way you might expect, but not following the standard path doesn’t mean you won’t find love, sex, companionship or a fulfilling relationship — or even a series of them. Don’t close yourself off to possibility or being surprised. Staying open to opportunity will go a long way towards helping you have an amazing life and incredible relationships… no matter what they look like.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I got into a new monogamous relationship with my boyfriend. Before I met him I was hooking up with my ex boyfriend, because I thought he was somebody I could trust, sexually.Within a month of starting to date my new boyfriend, I tested positive for HPV. I was honest with him and told him the minute I found out. Obviously no one wants an STI, but I never meant to give it to him, let alone get it myself. Now I’m facing the consequences of my own actions but honestly I’m not sure who gave it to me. I informed both parties to get tested. And I’m going from there.
But in other questions, will my current boyfriend break up with me because it could possibly be my fault?
Negative Result From A Positive Test
Don’t be so quick to castigate yourself NRFPT. HPV, like herpes, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections out there. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active adults come in contact with the virus at some point in their lives. Because most strains of HPV are asymptomatic and tend to spontaneously resolve themselves, the vast majority of people who’ve been exposed to the virus never know. It simply comes and goes without them ever being aware or causing any meaningful effects. Out of the more than 40 strains of HPV, only two are responsible for 90% of cases of genital warts, and two others are responsible for approximately 66% of cases of cervical cancer. So it’s entirely possible that, barring previous negative tests, that you had HPV before you and your first boyfriend ever broke up, and he could well have had it from before you and he ever got together. Unlike an STI like chlamydia, it’s virtually impossible to know who exposed whom and when. There is literally no way of your knowing whether you had it, whether your ex had it or your current boyfriend had it. The virus is also spread by skin to skin contact, so it’s also entirely possible to contract it without having sex. And while condoms protect against HPV, coming in contact with skin carrying the virus can spread it.
(It’s also worth noting: there is no HPV test for cisgendered men who don’t have symptoms.)
And, again, as far as STIs go, most of the time HPV is not a big deal. 90% of the time, the human immune system clears the virus within two years. The versions that result in warts are unsightly, yes, and having those treated is no picnic, but ultimately it’s a skin condition cropping up in very inconvenient places.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s understandable that somebody would be upset to learn that they’ve been exposed. Nobody wants to have contracted an STI. But at the same time, the stress and the stigma of HPV drastically outweighs the vast majority of cases.
Now the versions that can cause cancer are more concerning, and it’s worth making sure that you keep your primary care physician (and gynecologist if you have one) aware of having tested positive. But like I said: most of the time, HPV is an inconvenience, not a life sentence… assuming that you’re aware you have it at all.
Will your boyfriend break up with you over this? It’s impossible to say. If he’s ignorant about the realities of HPV, its prevalence in the population and its actual impact, then it’s quite possible that he might. But then again, if he treats this as something that makes you a dirty slut for slutting around and got punished by God for slutting all over the place… well, that’s probably a sign that you’re better off without him. Especially since, as I said: it’s impossible to know who’s “fault” it is.
What I suggest is making an appointment for the two of you at your local Planned Parenthood clinic to get the rundown on HPV, what it means, and what you can do about it. I would also suggest talking to your doctor about getting the HPV vaccine. While yes, you currently have a strain, the HPV vaccine protects you against the strains of HPV that cause precancerous lesions that lead to cervical, throat and anal cancer. And while I realize that very few people use condoms for oral sex and virtually nobody uses dental dams, using these can help keep your boyfriend from contracting your strain of HPV — assuming he wasn’t the one who gave it to you in the first place.