DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I really like the advice that you give because it’s fair and takes both male and female perspectives into account. I need some help here. I started off dating a younger guy, J, casually about a year and a half ago after splitting from my ex-husband. For the first like 9-10 months things between us were very casual, I’d show up, we’d have some drinks, get physical, and then I’d go. This arrangement worked well for both of us and I enjoyed it. We had no commitments to one another whatsoever. I left for a few months to work in a different city and was unfortunately date raped. J was supposed to visit me, but I called him almost immediately after my experience and told him he shouldn’t come because I was just too messed up. Apparently, for J, this was the wakeup to realize that he had real feelings for me.
A couple months later, I get back home and we start up seeing each other again. We attended a festival together and had a great time and got really close because of it. He told me he wanted to start dating me, which freaked me out and caused me to run and hide for the next month and a half. During that time I got really flakey. Admittedly it was the wrong way to handle that, but I was really struggling to deal with things. I was just working some things out from my assault and couldn’t get physical or emotional.
Once I began to feel better, I started seeing him again. However, it was very different and both of us developed deep feelings for one another. At some point he tells me he is in love with me. After a couple months of doing that, he asks me to be exclusive with him. Throughout all of that time he treated me with kindness, respect, and understanding. He was very supportive when I was dealing with PTSD issues, although he was hurt that I ghosted him for a while which I apologized for. All this is to say, I thought that based on his behavior and words that he was loving, sweet, and gentle (albeit a supporter of the opposite political party of me, and we are both very politically opinionated).
About 5 months into our exclusive relationship I see messages on his phone to his friend saying things like “I can do better” than this girl and “I really love the girl and she’s given me no reason to break up with her.” Some these exchanges with his friend involved times where his friend encourages him to simply cheat on me; J would reply with “I would, but she’s been cheated on before and she’ll find out.” Well, this infuriates me and I break it off with him immediately. Unfortunately, I’m also studying for a very rigorous exam and I am stressed out to the max, so I take the break-up really hard. He meets up with me and tearfully apologizes and tells me he was wrong, and he can’t live without me. I decide to give him another chance.
Then I discover that he has previously been very involved in this Red Pill movement. In fact, he’s met people he chatted with on Red Pill chatrooms in person. After doing a lot of research on the Red Pill, it becomes apparent to me that his previous comments about me to his friends stemmed from this philosophy. He assures me now that he does not agree with the majority of what that philosophy preaches, and really he’s only interested in stoicism and self-improvement which he learned from that site. I’m skeptical because he remains in contact with those friends and still checks out the subreddit frequently. I’m not even sure how someone who followed that philosophy could have ended up with a person like me; very liberal, outspoken on politics, possesses a doctoral degree, proudly feminist, very assertive and not afraid of confrontation.
It’s been really hard for me these last weeks because I feel so torn. On the one hand, I abhor the Red Pill philosophy and I am very concerned that J either used these techniques on me in the past, or will use them in the future to try and trick me. Admittedly, I’m now on high alert so I doubt that’ll happen. On the other hand, he has been such a source of support and love in my life, we have a great time together, have similar senses of humor, even now the sex life is incredible, etc. He has literally been taking care of me day in and day out while I study for this exam (which I have been doing everyday for the last 8 weeks for 10-12 hours per day), and I have truly not been easy to deal with because the stress of this exam is causing me extreme anxiety (and is doing the same thing to my friends who are also studying for the exam, so I’m not alone in feeling this way). He’s been visibly trying to show me that he values me and wants to be in a relationship and is willing to do what it takes.
How do I reconcile dating someone who (1) at one time told his friends he thought he could do better, but now has backtracked and after our split has literally come back to me saying that it made him realize he needs me and wants me in his life more than anything or anyone, and (2) who has such different views about social relationships between men and women? I love this dude and I want to be happy, how do I do both?
DEAR TWICE-BITTEN: I have a few questions, TB, for you and for J.
The first is simple: if all he wants is self-improvement and/or lessons in stoicism and “disagrees with so much of the philosophy”, then why in pluperfect f
kery is he still there? There are plenty of other communities that he could join, ones that don’t involve deeply misogynistic and manipulative bulls
t. The second would be how, exactly, he can reconcile being in love with you and wanting a relationship with you and still being friends with people who keep telling him to hurt you. It’s one thing to have different groups of friends who may not get along. It’s another entirely when one of those groups is actively telling him to ruin a relationship that he supposedly values.
This, incidentally, leads to my third question: which version of him are we supposed to believe: the one where he says that he loves you and values you and wants to make this relationship work, or the one where he says he’s only with you because you haven’t given him some sort of casus belli that would justify his leaving you? Who’s he lying to, you, his asshole friends or himself?
He’s already jeopardized this relationship once. The fact that he seems to be back on his bulls
t doesn’t exactly lend credence to the idea that he’s realized he’s wrong and he’s going to do better. It’d be one thing if he was trying to leave all this behind and was just struggling with breaking years of habit. But the fact that the Red Pill community is still such a big part of his life – even if it’s “just” the self-improvement bits – is a different matter. He may love you… but it doesn’t really seem like he respects you.
Were I in your shoes, I’d want to have a very long, drawn out talk about all of this – why he joined the community in the first place, why he’s still part of it, why he’s still talking to people who tried to ruin things between you and what, exactly, he’s going to do about it going forward. I would also say that it’s on him to show that he can be trusted. He’s neck deep in some toxic f
kery and while you can sometimes manage to filter out the good from the bad – that’s a major part of my secret origin after all – there comes a point where it’s worth asking why it’s so important for him to keep trying to pick the nuggets of corn out of all that s
t. He can find other resources for the self-improvement if that’s what he wants, even communities that promote positive masculinity and camaraderie. They’re out there, if he wants to seek them out.
And that’s a mighty big if.
If he is trying to leave it all behind, then I support that. I honestly believe that it’s important to acknowledge that we can grow and improve over our s
tty pasts. But he needs to show that he’s doing that. And if he can’t – or won’t – leave it behind, or you can’t bring yourself to trust him… well, as the sage says: sometimes love just ain’t enough.
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