DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Hi Dr. NerdLove, I am 5 years into a relationship, and we've lived together for 3 of those years. During the past year, a new neighbor moved in next door. She is about a decade younger than us, and often spends time working in her backyard wearing tight short-shorts and an exercise bra. She's truly gorgeous and model fit with bleached blonde hair. Our kitchen window is above our sink and stove, and it looks directly into her backyard.
My partner has become so distracted by her that it's uncomfortable for me to be in my own kitchen. I do my best to go about my business and be calm - and keep the curtain closed - but I frequently catch him staring out the window, finding excuses to open the curtains, and coming up with reasons to be in the yard. I've even seen him standing in front of the window - with the top half of the window exposed - at night after showering, naked.
I feel a sense of dread in my stomach when I'm heading home, wondering if she'll be out in the yard today. I've brought up my discomfort with my partner twice. The first time, he completely denied it. The next day, he asked me to marry him. The second time he also pretended it wasn't happening.
I do want to have compassion for him. It must be so exciting to him to have a free show in his own kitchen. But it's hard to hold my head high. Do you have any insight or advice on how to talk to him about this, or about what I should do?
Tired Of The Show
DEAR TIRED OF THE SHOW: Humans are built to seek out variety and novelty in virtually all forms of stimulus. One of the weirder quirks of the human psyche is how easily we get used to just about anything. It's called hedonic adaptation; once we adapt to a particular stimuli, we return to our pre-existing baseline. So as comfy as your bed may be, after a certain amount of time, it becomes just "your bed". As delicious as your favorite food may be, eat enough of it and it's just "food". And no matter how much you love and desire your partner, there comes a point where they're your baseline. They don't give you the same thrill as they did when things were new and exciting.
One of the ways this manifests is the way that we react when we see someone hot. We get that little dopamine hit straight to the brain and want more. So we keep looking. It's a natural and nearly universal response, across cultures, relationship status and gender.
But the fact that it's natural and understandable doesn't change the fact that sometimes you end up acting like an jackass in the process.
Case in point: your boyfriend, ToTS. It's normal that he's going to be interested in checking out your new hot neighbor. The way he’s going about it, however, is rude, hurtful, and honestly, really creepy. First and foremost, he's ignoring how uncomfortable this is making you. The fact that you've called him out on this, twice, and he's still doing it? That's unacceptable.
Distracting you with a proposal or just straight up lying? That's adding insult to injury; he's behaving as though you're stupid or that he can bluff his way into making you doubt your own lying eyes.
Then there's the WAY he's behaving. Sensible folks who'd like to check someone out without being weird about it learn to use their peripheral vision. One can still get an eyeful without staring like a horny 12 year old. But starting to hang out in front of the window naked? That's some escalating behavior right there. I'm wondering if your boyfriend doesn't have a voyeur fetish... or if he's hoping to get caught by said hot neighbor. Maybe he's starting to hope that she'll see his naked self staring out the window and invite him over like a bad porno.
Of course, what is far more likely to happen is that she's going to get seriously weirded out and possibly call the cops on him. People don’t appreciate being dragged into someone performing in else's sexual fantasy without their consent.
So here's what I suggest: you need to have a come-to-Jesus talk with your boyfriend. I don't know how blunt you were about how uncomfortable he was making you the first two times you brought this up, but now's the time to bring out the Chair Leg of Truth. He needs to know, in no uncertain terms that the way he's ogling the neighbor is making you incredibly uncomfortable, and the fact that he's blown you off twice now is hurtful and unacceptable. Moreover, he's embarrassing himself and acting like a giant creeper. A 12 year old might be forgiven for acting like this - once - because they don't know better. Your boyfriend, however, is a grown-ass man and even goldfish can learn. He presumably has had enough experience that all the blood shouldn't leave his brain at seeing a woman in her underwear, nor to act in such a leering manner that it makes his girlfriend uncomfortable.
This is not a major ask, ToTS. This is equal parts basic consideration and simple emotional intelligence. He should be able to make it through the world without a glimpse of an attractive woman in a sports bra is turning him into the cartoon wolf from Red Hot Riding Hood. He should also be able to get that this hurts you and realize that maybe he should stop.
So lay all of that out there, as bluntly and directly as you humanly can. There shouldn't be any room to doubt how badly up he's behaving and how it's making you feel. Moreover, he needs to know that he needs to grow the hell up and knock it the hell off. Getting a subtle thrill is one thing. Making you feel worthless and blithely ignoring your stated boundaries is another.
With luck, a sharp smack upside the head with the clue-by-four will do the trick and he'll shape up already.
And if he doesn't? Then it's time to dump this guy so hard his parents get divorced retroactively, because the only way you have to go from there is down.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Hey Doc, I just started reading your blog and watching your YouTube channel and I have to say it’s been a lot of fun and has helped me finally try the whole dating thing out. But I’ve tried recently, and it hasn’t gone magnificently.
So I have this coworker- we’ll call her T. Me and T got along wonderfully. She has my exact same sense of humor, we joke around all the time, we have generally similar interests, and I’m never unhappy when I’m around her. Although it did take me a good 3-4 months for me to realize “yeah, I’m totally into her”.
When I made up my mind, I tried to find some way for us to grow closer together so that a relationship could become more feasible. Not dates, but just doing things together outside of work to get closer.
She’s a writer, so I asked if she wanted to read one of her stories at an open mic with me. She said she was too nervous. I asked her if she wanted to play a couch co-op multiplayer game sometime. She said she had only one controller. The only place outside of work is at a gas station and that’s only for a few minutes after work.
After those simple hang outs failed, I decided I was just going to ask her out straight up. I said to her “T, you’re fun. We should do something fun. Do you wanna go out bowling?” At first she said yes, but later that night said that it would be more fun if we went out for breakfast....and invited all of our other coworkers too. I couldn’t say no or that I just wanted it to be the two of us because I had tried so hard to get close to this point and any opportunity just to be with her I would gladly take.
Some time passes, we still get along great and I decided that enough was enough. I sensed something more between us and I wanted to stop fooling around and actually act upon it. One night at the gas station, I asked her “do you wanna be more than just friends?”. I then went on to say that I thought she was funny and likable and pretty as hell. I said that I was never unhappy when I was around her and I wanted to make her as happy as she made me.
She said she would think about it and that she had no idea I had a crush on her. We parted ways and I didn’t contact her so she would have plenty of space and time to think.
When she got back to me, she said that she wanted to stay friends because her anxiety and nervousness would lead to her messing something up and hurting me. She said that really later down the line she might like to try, but she didn’t want to rush anything. She also added that she didn’t want work to become awkward.
I said that it was okay and that I didn’t want to pressure her into doing anything. I also added that whenever she was ready, I probably will still feel the same.
About a month passes and we work past the initial awkward phase at work and soon start to interact as if nothing happened (minus flirting, that has been toned down). I soon discover that another coworker of mine, we’ll call him M, is also into T. T also flirts with and talks with M more than me, especially after I revealed my feelings, so I bet there’s a strong chance that they either want to date or may even already be dating.
And this hurts. I hold no ill will towards either of them or anything, but it just plain hurts and even though I don’t know if they’re officially in a relationship yet, there’s no doubt I’m jealous as hell. Not to mention that if they are dating, all the reasons she didn’t want me were null and void and just boiled down to the fact that she wasn’t attracted to me. I don’t know if I was lied to or what.
I respect M and while he acts like a sarcastic snarky jerk to some people, he doesn’t to me. So I would love to still be friends with both of them, but I still totally have feelings for T. So now I’m completely lost as to what to do next. A part of me wants to just move on, but I still have the slightest glimmer of hope that T and I may still officially date. And if we don’t and T and M become a thing, what can I do to accept that? Should I confront them and just throw it out there that I’m jealous and hurting? Or do I just go on pretending I don’t know anything and just keep my jealousy to myself?
DEAR OPENLY CONFUSED: First of all, OC, let me congratulate you. You stepped up and asked someone out on a date. That's good. That takes guts. You should be proud of yourself for putting yourself out there like that.
Now let me explain what's been going on. T isn't interested in you and she's been trying to tell you from the jump. She gets along with you and likes talking with you at work, but she's not interested in seeing you outside of that. All those times she gave you reasons why she couldn't (or wouldn't) go do stuff with you? Those were soft “no's", socially polite, plausible excuses to turn someone down.
Telling someone "no" directly is often seen as being rude or harsh and women in particular are socialized to be deferential and considerate of other people's feelings. So instead of saying "no, thanks" and possibly hurting your feelings, she's been giving throwing obstacles in the way and hoping that you get the hint. This way she can say "no" without actually saying the words and making you feel bad. Instead of drawing attention to the fact that you like her but she doesn't like you the same way, she's giving you an out. You can both agree to pretend it's not you, it's just bad luck/fate/whatever and everybody goes their separate ways.
This includes her telling you "maybe in the future"; it's a way of kicking the can down the road in hopes that it just won't come up again.
Now would it be easier if she just said "hey, thanks but I'd rather stay work friends?" Yes, probably. But socialization is tough to break and, honestly, a lot of dudes react badly to being turned down. There are dozens of women getting threatened, screamed at or physically attacked after saying "no, thanks" on a weekly basis. So for many people, those soft “no's" are safer, even if they can cause confusion.
Yes, you know that you're not like that. But that's still a serious risk for her. Plus, like I said: she's trying to let you down gently.
And hey, it sucks. I get that. Being rejected hurts. But all this means is that you and she weren't right for one another. The best thing you can do is accept this and move on. Because, honestly? There's nothing else for you to do, especially if you really want to be friends with the both of them.
Ask yourself: what does confronting them do? What would you hope to come from that? She knows how you feel; telling her again isn't going to change her mind. Similarly, it's not as though she's flirting with someone else at you. She's not doing this to make you upset. She's flirting with M because she digs him. You honestly don't enter into the equation at all. It sucks that you're envious but that's not their responsibility. That's on you to deal with. Accept that you're sad that it didn't work out between you and T; that's totally legit. Tell yourself that you're happy for the two of them and you want the best for all of them. And then move on.
You did the brave thing and you got your answer. You don't need to spend any time wondering or waiting on her. You're free to go find someone who does want what you have to offer. And they are out there. You just have to keep looking and putting yourself out there, just as you did before.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)