DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My girl is a labourer, which means she generally works with predominantly men – which also means she makes a lot of male friends. Problem is, I’ve had a lot of bad experience with opposite-sex-friendships in relationships and am suffering some major insecurity issues.
I realise this is largely a personal issues, but I just want advice on how I could possibly deal with the situation. Any advice on how I can get over my insecurity and trust issues? Is it right for her to hang out with these guys while I’m at work?
I try to be modern and play it off like I don’t care, but it’s eating me up inside with all these conflicting feelings – as in, I shouldn’t control who she hangs out with and when, but my head keeps trying to push me to ask to at least be involved – so that I can make sure these dudes aren’t making a move on her.
DEAR FEELING JEALOUS: So I want to warn you that right off the bat, FJ, you’re going to be getting a lot of “build yourself a bridge and get over it” responses from folks over this. And to a certain extent, they’re correct: this is basically a problem that is entirely in your head and it’s on you to work through it.
But you know what? I can understand the way you’re feeling. I’ve been there and done that… which means I know exactly what’s going to happen if you don’t sort your head out: you’re going to push your girlfriend away. Maybe it’ll be into one of her male friends’ arms. Maybe it won’t. Either way it won’t matter, because all it’s going to do is just confirm to you that you had a reason to be jealous and controlling and you can never trust other dudes around a woman.
So let’s do something radical here before everything goes horribly wrong, FJ. Let’s head this off at the pass.
Because you’re right: it’s a personal issue. You’re wrong about the cause though. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt you’ve had bad experiences with opposite-sex friendships, but that’s not the underlying issue here. The underlying issue here is your self-esteem. Specifically: you don’t have any.
Is that harsh? Yeah, it’s a little harsh. But it’s true. Because let’s face it: unless there’s something major you’ve left out of your letter – it’s pretty short, maybe you did – your girlfriend isn’t giving you any reason to believe she’s about to or is currently cheating on you. This is all your jerk-brain playing Iago to your Othello, telling you that Desdemona has to have been schtupping half the guardsman in the barracks. It’s that lack of self-esteem, that lack of belief in yourself or in your inherent value which makes you believe that there’s trouble in the offing.
The reason why you’re freaking out about your girlfriend having lots of male friends is that you don’t believe that you can measure up to them. In your head, they’re big, strapping, macho alpha males whereas you… aren’t. Furthermore, you seem to have bought into the idea that men can’t possibly be friends with a woman without wanting to bone her, so clearly these guys are hanging around your girlfriend like a bunch of mountain lions around a solitary sheep, waiting for the perfect moment to pounce. And because you don’t feel as though you have any actual worth, you have this nagging feeling that the only possible reason why your girlfriend isn’t banging one or all of them is because you sporadically remind her of your existence.
And if I’m right – and I bet I am – you haven’t breathed a word of this to your girlfriend.
That’s the root of all your problems right there.
I mean, let’s look at this logically. Either you trust your girlfriend or you don’t. If you don’t trust her, then you shouldn’t be dating her at all, because trust is the foundation that relationships are built upon. So let’s proceed under the assumption that you do trust her. In which case: who cares if one of her friends makes a move on her? Just because someone makes a pass at your girlfriend doesn’t mean that she’s going to suddenly fling her panties to the wind and cry out “Take me now, you stallion, take me in a manly fashion!” No, what’s going to happen is that she’s going to shoot him down. Why? Because she’s already chosen YOU.
Your girlfriend – out of all the other guys in her life – has chosen to date you. This alone should tell you something: that there is something about you that she finds more appealing, more attractive, more worthwhile than those other guys. Maybe the other guys are handsomer. Maybe other guys she knows are funnier or more financially well off. Maybe some dress better or have fancier cars. Doesn’t matter. By dating you, she is telling you that the sum totality of who you are means more to her than those other guys out there.
And here you are, basically calling her a liar.
You don’t believe that you have value, that you have any worth, so you’re intrinsically saying “I don’t believe you. You can’t possibly like me. As soon as I’m not in eyeshot, you’re going to go straight to Dirk Chestmeat.” And you know what? There’s only so many times you can call someone a liar and push them away before they decide that they’ve had enough and leave.
The other problem is that this fear that she’s inevitably going to cheat on you because she has so many other guys around her? That’s going to come out in your behavior. I mean, you’re already anxious about it. It’s eating you up inside. It’s making you tense, it’s making you nauseous. I can guarantee you, you’re not as good about keeping that tension out of your face and voice when you talk to her, that stiffness out of your limbs when you hold her. She may not say anything, but I bet she’s noticed. And I bet she’s wondering what’s wrong.
It’s important to deal with these feelings, with that lack of self-esteem. It doesn’t take very long before fear becomes certainty and that in turn becomes bitterness and resentment. And when that happens… you start getting angry at her. Angry for things she hasn’t done, which she isn’t even thinking of. And c’mon: it’s not fair to get angry at someone for what’s ultimately going on in your head, not if you want this relationship to work.
And believe me, the answer is not to wave your insecurity in her face. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen guys try to “win” a girl by trying to perpetually occupy her attention, who believed that the only way to he was going to get her interested in him is if he somehow blocked every other male she wanted to talk to. I’ll give you three guesses how many times that trick worked and the first two don’t count. That’s sad enough in courting behavior. It’s especially sad when it’s a jealous boyfriend who believes that his presence is the only thing preventing her from cheating on him.
So right now you have a long-term and and a short term solution. First: you need to talk to somebody – a counselor, a psychologist, someone – about your self-esteem and insecurity issues. These are going to be the core of every relationship problem you have, the common denominator that’s going to underline every single break-up and failed relationship. The sooner you start addressing these issues, the better; not only will it make your life better over all, it will make you feel much more secure in your relationships. That’s the long-term solution. It’s not going to be quick or easy, but it’s necessary.
Next is the short-term solution: you’re going to use your words. You need to talk with your girlfriend. And here’s what you need to say: “Listen, I’m an insecure bag of slop right now. I love you and I trust you, but I had some bad experiences in the past and I get anxious about you hanging around other guys. I know it’s irrational, and it’s about how I’m feeling and not about anything you’re doing. I don’t want you to stop being friends with them and I’m not telling you who you can and can’t be friends with. I just want you to know that I get insecure every now and again. I’m working on it, but I’d appreciate a little reassurance every once in a while.” That’s it.
Letting her know that you feel this way, that you recognize that this is irrational is important. Like I said: the fact that this is eating you up is coming out in your letter and if I can see it in seven sentences, then it’s definitely coming out in your behavior with her. And the odds are, she knows you’re upset but she doesn’t know why and – if she cares about you at all – wants to help. Opening up to her so she understands why you may get twitchy every now and again is like venting steam – you’re relieving the pressure that’s been building up for so long. You’ll be amazed at how much just getting it out there will help. And by giving her something concrete that she can do to help rather than trying to restrict her… well, I suspect that’ll bring her relief too.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve got a bad case of the jitterbugs – I love to dance.
I’ve dabbled in swing, tango, blues, waltz, square, Scottish, and a folk dance called contra. All of the places have one thing in common: if you want to dance with someone, wait ten minutes for a break in the music and just ask them. If they say yes, great! If they say no, no big deal–just ask someone else. It’s pretty transparent and its a great time.
However, I’ve occasionally found myself at a normal club with pop music playing and lots of people on a crowded dance floor. Since the music is pretty continuous, I’ll try starting to dance along and dancing over to a woman who didn’t look like she was dancing with anyone and asking her if she wanted to dance. It’s impossible to speak, so this was pretty much all through eye contact and the well-known “would you care to dance?” hand gesture. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve gotten a “what the hell?” facial expression as if I’m the creepiest lizardman they’ve ever seen crawl from a sewer. I don’t like that feeling, so I’ve really only tried this a handful of times. I usually either dance by myself off in a corner, or just leave. A female friend of mine told me that you’re just supposed to start grinding on someone and she’ll either be into it or shoo you off. I’ve never worked up the courage to do that because dancing at clubs generally involves grinding your genitalia against the other person and doing that without asking, well… frankly it sounds too much like sexual assault.
So, what course of action would you prescribe?
DEAR CONFUSED JITTERBUG: you’ve asked the wrong guy. Even when I was going to clubs, I didn’t dance unless I was literally dragged onto the floor by someone and even then, I mostly did the “arms at 90 degrees, shuffle side-to-side” move. Swing dancing, ballroom, salsa, cha-cha, I’m your guy. In da club… not so much.
That being said: I can tell you that being the guy who just starts rubbing his junk on a random girl? Not the guy you want to be. I’ve lost track of how many women have complained to me about guys who do that. Now personally, I’d suggest that instead of doing the “shall we dance” routine – which is a bit formal and out of place in a club setting – I’d recommend talking to someone for a few minutes and getting a conversation started. Then just say “hey, let’s dance!”, take her hand and lead her out to the floor.
But that’s just me and – like I said – I’m not the club guy. So I’m tossing this one out to my club-going readers: what’s the best way to ask someone to dance at a loud club?
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)