Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Are My Girlfriend and I Too Different to Date?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Been pondering on how to get some advice on this for a while. So I finally made up my mind to write you.

My girlfriend and I have been together for almost 3 years. I’m 29, she’s 28 and she’s my been my first serious relationship ever.

Now, I am a total nerd. I like sci-fi, video games (duh), anime, all that stuff. I’m also kind of a loner. She is way more sociable, always wants to be around people, me especially, and she likes corny rom coms, cooking shows, and is kinda addicted to social media.

When we started dating we learned about one another and watched and did what the other one liked. But, as our relationship developed things have changed. It’s come to the point where I can’t play games around her because she wants my attention (we’ve played some coop games but not for a while now) and she can’t watch the movies she likes because I don’t like them. So we end up in this weird middle ground where we watch some mediocre TV show because we both compromised.

The conversation has devolved as well. We know so much about each other that it’s starting to get uninteresting. Like for example I keep my conversation short about a new game I’m playing because I know she is not really into it. But she does like to know I’m happy about it. Or she’ll call me to know how I am but she doesn’t really have anything else to say. I’m both thankful and annoyed by this.

I want to know how to approach this subject with her without sounding hurtful. She is the most caring and loving human being I’ve ever met, but she is really sensitive as well. What I want is to be able to share our passions with one another, but I know that will not always be possible.

I hope I didn’t ramble too much. Anyway thanks for helping me out. Even writing this has helped a bit I think.

Sincerely,

One Confused Geek

DEAR ONE CONFUSED GEEK: There are two things to talk about here, OCG.

The first is how much we need to have in common with our partners. As much as I talk about how our commonalities and similarities are what bring us together, it’s very easy to get stuck in the idea that we need to have everything in common with our partners. It’s the idea that our partner is supposed to not just be our lover but our best friend, our primary confidant and the person with whom we experience everything together. And honestly, that’s going to burn out a relationship very quickly. That puts a lot of pressure on a person and can lead to feeling like even the slightest division is the death of the relationship.

In reality, having separate interests and separate lives is a good thing for relationships; not only does it keep you both from feeling smothered, but it also allows you to have interests that your partner doesn’t share. This way you don’t feel like the only things you’re “allowed” to enjoy or participate in are things that you both love. You can have your gaming time, she can enjoy her cheesy rom-coms and you can come together over the things you both enjoy instead of trying to cram the metaphorical square peg into the round hole.

The second thing that needs to be discussed is that, frankly, not every relationship is meant to last forever… and that’s a good thing. Some relationships are meant to be temporary; they have an allotted natural lifespan, where they serve the needs of the people involved and then it comes to it’s organic end. That doesn’t mean that the relationship was a failure; it just means that you two have come to the end of this particular chapter in your lives and it’s time for the two of you to find the next chapter. Nor, for that matter, does it mean that you weren’t right for each other. You were right for each other for that stage in your lives. But now you two have reached a new stage, where your wants and needs are different and, ultimately, contradictory.

The fact that the relationship may have reached it’s conclusion doesn’t mean that anyone did anything wrong or that there was something you could’ve done differently that would’ve saved it. That sort of thinking just circles back to the idea that the only form of “success” a relationship can have is that it lasts until someone dies. A relationship that ends with two people who respect each other, who have affection for one another and look back on the bulk of their time together with fondness is an unqualified success by any definition.

All of this brings me to a couple questions.

Are you two able to have conversations outside of your interests? Do you still have interests that you both share, or does everything come down to trying to find some barely acceptable compromise that neither of you actually enjoys? You may not like her movies and she may not enjoy games, but can you both respect that the other person does? Can you at least connect with each other’s enjoyment of your hobbies and respect them, even if you don’t share their interest? Can you both carve out space to do your thing and come back together to do things that you both enjoy later? Are the things that brought you together in the first place still present in your relationship, or does everything revolve around one or the other of you trying to enjoy “their” thing and getting frustrated by the other person’s lack of interest?

These are all questions that you’re going to need to answer, OCG, if you want to have an idea of just where your relationship is going. Being able to find some compromises where you both don’t feel obligated to include the other in their hobbies or interests will be crucial to the future of this relationship. But if the answer to most of these questions is “no”, or you can’t find ways of both of you enjoying the things you like — even separately — then it may just be a case that your relationship has come to it’s natural ending.

But those are all things you and she are going to have to work out together. And it’s going to require both of you being willing to face up to the possibility that you’re trying to prolong things beyond the point where it no longer works.

It’s not an easy conversation to have, and it’s a scary thing to face. But it’s better that the two of you figure this out together than by constantly making yourselves miserable by settling on compromises that neither of you enjoy.

Good luck.

Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, doc@doctornerdlove.com