Ask Dr. Nerdlove

Can I Trust My Instincts?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I recently started a relationship, but ended it not long after. Basically there were three different instances where my instincts kept gnawing at me.

Things were very lovely when they started, but then the first time this “gut” feeling surfaced is when he told me he would be leaving work at a certain time. However, hours before he would have left, I bumped into him at the store, grocery shopping. Talk about coincidences! I also noticed that he was talking away on the phone before he spotted me. I found it a little concerning because I remembered him telling me he doesn’t fancy talking on the phone, unlike myself.

We continued to talk and get close, but then my instincts tugged at me once more. This time, I was at his house, and his driver’s license happen to be lying on the night table. I saw it as soon I stepped into the room, so it was sort of inevitable. From it I discovered that he lied. His first name was correct, but his last name wasn’t what he told me and he had a middle name, despite telling me he didn’t have one. I found this very suspicious and concerning all at once. Why would he lie about such a small thing, and what could he be hiding? 

I didn’t let him know what I saw and what I figured out. I had hoped he would come clean on his own, but he didn’t. Bear in mind, this man is 13 years older than me, so why play games?

The third time my instincts pulled at me once more was when I visited him. We spent some time together, but before getting intimate he told me wanted me to spend the night. I thought “sure!”,  since I have before. After that period of intimacy was over, he just sat on the edge of the bed as if he was contemplating about something. Suddenly he asks me if I would be mad at him if he fed me some food and sent me home. Surprised, I asked why the sudden change of mind. His reason was that he had work in the morning, however, I had to remind him that I had spent the night before even when he had work. His second reason was that he didn’t like when I spent the night because I stay up all night, which was untrue.

This came as a shock because he made no mention or hint in that nature before, and quite frankly a very flimsy excuse.

I ate and I made my home, after which I let him know I had arrived safely. He didn’t respond, then went “ghost” for two days. Then had the audacity to message me asking if that’s it, as if I was the one who went MIA. I was upset, and he couldn’t tell me why he did that, he just could not give an answer. All he could do was say he’s sorry. We didn’t talk for very long after that.

The following day I didn’t hear from him until I opted to say good morning, to which he responded cheerfully, following that he was busy with work. Further in the afternoon I heard from him but briefly as he still continued to say how busy he was at work. I then told him I’d talk to him later on. 

Hours passed, until after midnight he responded to a break up text I had sent. I was concerned because to know that the last time we exchanged words was the afternoon before, and the message he responds to is a break up message. What made it worse is that he responded very soon after. Which means he could have checked in at any time during the night, but chose not to.

After reading all this Dr. NerdLove, do you think I ended things prematurely without properly working through what was going on, or did I let it carry on for way too long?


Single In The City

DEAR SINGLE IN THE CITY: You know, I’m a fan of the phrase “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy act^H^H^H a message”, but your situation, SitC is… unique.

The idea of “going with your gut” is a very popular one. It’s one I agree with, actually – with some reservations. There’s something appealing that our gut or our instincts are inherently superior to our rational, intellectual side; we see this play out all the time in the media. Brash James T. Kirk goes by impulse and intuition, even when the cool, logical Mister Spock advises otherwise, and wins the day because Kirk’s guts are very very wise. The maverick cop on the edge gets the criminal or the terrorists because he knows there’s just no time to follow protocol. The investor who picks the risky stock because they know there’s something about it even as everyone tells them not to.

Of course, “going with your gut” doesn’t work if your gut is just wrong. We’ve got a few presidents who’ve proved that point rather handily. So while it’s good to trust yourself when something makes your Spidey-senses tingle, it’s also good to double-check. Especially if it’s an area where you may have been wrong before. The fact that you feel something doesn’t necessarily make it accurate. Lots of times, things like anxiety or confirmation bias can get in the way and color our interpretation of how things are actually playing out.

Now with that having been said, let’s address your specific situation, SitC.

Two of the three incidents aren’t necessarily things that I would classify as hinky or bad. Under other circumstances, things like “said he was at work until late but left early” or “Got weird after sex” would get some serious side-eye, but wouldn’t necessarily be relationship-extinction level events. There’re understandable explanations for both of those, including “dude is bad at saying he doesn’t want company/ has other plans/ isn’t comfortable with your staying the night“. Not great explanations, mind you, but understandable ones.

Aaaaaand then we get to the fact that he lied to you about his name.

That, SitC is where my personal Spidey-sense started going off like an airhorn. Like I said: I could see someone being averse to conflict giving ultimately pointless white lies about being unavailable instead of “Hey, I’m just not feeling it.” I can understand why someone might be awkward about saying “You know, I’ve changed my mind, I’d rather you didn’t stay over.”

But lying about his name? That is the point where things cross over from “could be hinky, could be awkward” to “what the hell, actual?” Of all of the reasons I can come up with that would explain why he lied about his name, literally none of them are good. And to be quite honest, finding out that the person I was seeing on the regular had lied about something that serious would be the start of a very pointed and uncomfortable conversation, not waiting to see if it were just… I don’t know, a gag?

And honestly? Something tells me that all the rest of his weird behavior stems out from that. Were I to take a wild stab in the dark, my money would be that you were his side-piece. Lying about his name meant that you couldn’t find him as easily on social media and realize he was with someone else. Lying about being at work would keep you from showing up at a time when he’s with his main squeeze. Telling you he didn’t like talking on the phone would ensure that you didn’t call at an inconvenient time and give the game away – or that you wouldn’t hear his other partner in the background.

His sending you home could well be because he was going to be seeing his other partner the next day. Or he might have been feeling guilty. Or who knows.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. You were absolutely right to trust your instincts on this. He was acting very strangely, and you clearly were picking up on things. Whatever was going on with your ex, you’re better off not being part of whatever drama he’s caught up in.

Honestly, I would’ve said that finding out he’d lied about his name would be a deal breaker, but that’s me. You recognized things were messed up and you got the hell out. That’s the important part. Now you know that your instincts are pretty damn reliable. And next time, you won’t end up with a guy playing odd games.

Good luck.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 26 year old virgin who’s been on dates, but never had a relationship. I’ve had a history of depression and OCD throughout my life, with my psychiatrist suggesting that the OCD turned into body dysmorphic disorder. I ended up finding a great therapist a few years ago who taught me all about mindfulness and meditation and most importantly writing and journaling. Keeping a gratitude journal every night has been very helpful. After I got my MS degree, I wanted to move to North Carolina and get out of the small rust belt town where I was. So every night before bed I would write down affirmations that I am attracting a job in NC, I am attracting what I want. It was a lot of work to maintain that, work my then current job, and to keep actively job hunting and embracing the turn downs after interviews, but I got a dream job right where I wanted. I learned a lot about confidence in job interviews and how to learn from the negative outcomes. It has been a game changer in how I think about life.

Which brings me to the relationship thing. I mentioned the BDD earlier. I have been an active weight lifter for several years. It’s something I use to combat the depression and it’s become a center point in my life. Through that and changing what I eat I’ve turned myself from skinny fat into sculpted (6 pack abs, big arms, etc). The problem is that I still think I’m not big enough and especially not tall enough (I’m 5’10”). I absolutely understand that looking any certain way will not impress a girl on its own. I go to a gym on a college campus and naturally is crawling with girls in my age group. I want to put myself out there, but that nagging inner critic tells me that I’m not good enough, not tall enough, not big enough. They want the bigger guys at the other end of the room to talk to them, they’ll be disappointed if you talk to them. They’re in college and you’ve been done with college for a few years, you have nothing in common. You’re boring. You get the idea. But people all the time tell me I’m handsome or that they’re jealous of how I look.

Thing is, I understand the flaws in those statements. Whenever I go anywhere (hockey games, the mall, any kind of public place) I look out for couples where the guy is like me (not perfect, not 7 feet tall) and it’s everywhere. I absolutely know that guys like me are just as capable of finding love as anyone else. My best friends are living proof of this. None of them work out, they’re all in way worse shape than me, none of them are especially handsome, but they’re all so confident that they always knock it out of the park with dating and all that. I tell myself (and write most nights) that they all did it and so will I. I’m always looking for counter-evidence to the negative feelings I have about myself and I make note of it in my writings.

I go on meetups quite a bit. I mainly use it to go on hikes because I like the outdoors. The most recent group I joined has had a number of cute girls show up. I had a great time meeting them and conversing with them. I put no pressure on myself, I just met new people. Some of them approached me and engaged me without me initiating anything. It was amazing and I felt great about it. I felt like I was drawing in the right kind of people. And I didn’t ask anyone out, don’t worry. I’m going again this weekend.

I plan on having my friends help me take pictures of myself in order to make a profile. As much as I’m trying, I don’t meet new people enough. I’ve avoided online dating because of all the negative things I’ve heard about it from people (both guys and girls) I know who’ve used it, but I need something new. I’m framing it as exposure therapy, that I can put myself out there and it’s not the end of the world if I get a no or a ghost.

I don’t harbor any resentment or bitterness against women (I know the mistakes I’ve made with the various girls I’ve gone out on dates with in the past), I know that where I’m currently at, everything that’s good and bad about my situation, is a product of what’s in my own head. That’s why I was able to get my dream job in my dream location and it’s also why I’m a 26 year old virgin. I’m always working to apply the job stuff to the relationship stuff, it’s hard, but I have to do it if I want it to change.

Do you think I’m on the right track?

Working It Out

DEAR WORKING IT OUT: I’ve read over your letter three times. And here’s what I’ve found:

You’re doing everything exactly right.

Honestly, you should be proud of yourself and the progress you’ve made. You have made incredible strides, working through a whole host of issues and BS to get to where you are. That’s huge, and it speaks a lot to your inner strength and your character.

The only thing I would tell you is that it takes a lot of practice and effort to make quiet those voices in your head. They’re incredibly insidious, because they whisper in your own voice and know exactly where to poke your insecurities with sticks. So don’t feel bad that you’re still having those negative thoughts or self-limiting beliefs. You’re working hard and you’ve come unbelievably far. Take some time to appreciate that.

Through your work, perseverance and a willingness to seek out help when you needed it, you have brought yourself to the precipice of an incredible future. You, my friend, have some amazing times ahead of you.

Good luck.

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