DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a college-aged gay male (not particularly important, but I’ll put it out there anyways) and there’s this guy that I’ve hooked up with a handful of times. We revealed feelings for each other on Valentine’s Day, and from there we discussed the possibility of a relationship. The only problem is, I’m very monogamous when it comes to relationships, and he’s not. So from there we decided to call off the idea of a relationship if either way one of us would not be fulfilled in what we want.
When we were discussing ways to have a relationship (before we called it off), we discussed compromises where we could be open, but have restrictions on when we could exercise our openness (like get permission from the other when we wanted to hookup with a guy, only a certain amount of hookups allowed per month, etc). Anyways, every time he was talking about how some of those compromises would go and he specifically mentioned the act of him sleeping with someone else, I would start getting anxiety, almost to the point of an anxiety attack.
Now that we’re just friends with benefits, you’d think that that would go away, right? Wrong. Just today we were discussing the idea of having someone come over next time we hook up to show me how to indulge in a particular kink that needs some training, and yet that have me some anxiety. Hell, when I texted him today about what he was doing and he said he just got back from hanging out with a kinky friend (platonically), that even that ruffled me a bit.
So my question is: is this jealousy normal for someone who’s not even romantically involved with this other person, and are there ways to tackle it? Because for now, every time we talk about playing with a third person, or him mentioning to me that he has or will hook up with someone else, I really do lock up and instantly start acting differently: I get reserved and passive, I try to avoid the conversation as much as possible, and it’s hard for me to look at his face once I lock up. I really want to at least try to beat this anxiety, but it has yet to fail getting to me every time the topic comes up.
Three’s Probably A Crowd
DEAR THREE’S PROBABLY A CROWD: You’re asking the wrong question, TPAC. I think the question you need to be asking is “how bad am I willing to let things get in order to stay in this relationship?”
I know I write a lot about openness and non-monogamy, but that doesn’t mean that an open relationship is for everyone… and it sure as hell doesn’t sound like it’s for you. It’s one thing to deal with feelings of jealousy with a partner, but it’s another entirely if the idea of them being with another person causes you to lock up and have an anxiety attack.
I think the biggest issue here is that ultimately you’re trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole. Your boyfriend/friend-with-benefits/it’s-complicated may be a great guy in most respects but that doesn’t mean that the two of you work together. Love – or at least infatuation, in any case – is a wonderful thing, but the fact that you’re into each other doesn’t mean that you’re right for each other. You two are sexually incompatible; you’re monogamous and he isn’t. While there can be ways of squaring that particular circle, causing you anxiety attacks is a pretty damn huge dealbreaker.
if the idea of him with another guy is leaving you gasping for breath on the floor (metaphorically speaking), trying to make this work is a recipe for pain on both your parts. You’re going to get hurt every time he hooks up with someone else and he’s going to be hurt and upset when you start to withdraw. That’s not good for either of you.
I get that you dig him, but you have to ask yourself: how long are going to be able to handle this if nothing ever changes? A month? Six months? A year? How many times are you going to be able to deal with that stabbing in your gut?
You’re going to be a lot happier with someone who’s on the same page regarding monogamy as you are, TPAC. Anxiety attacks and withdrawal are not an acceptable price of entry for a relationship.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have had a bit of trouble getting an steady girlfriend for a while. (my last serious relationships is over 6 years ago, which was btw also my first and last relationship, I am 24 now). But well, I am working on myself, and I am not feeling that self-consciousness about it anymore. Had temporary ‘flings’ in the meantime, but decided that was not something that suits me well.
Anyway, I have a bit of a problem signaling my interest to other people. And I am really struggling with signaling my interest without fearing to come off as rude/too strong etc. Sometimes, when I really really like someone, I tend to just tell them straight. (That does happen about twice a year).
I am part of the ‘hacker’ community, which is male-dominated. Last time there was a new girl whom I found very attractive. She studied mathematics and was generally fun to talk to. I made the mistake of ‘showing off’ a little too much with geeky stuff. (It felt almost as an instinctive response).We talked for a bit. At some point, I wanted to keep talking to her, but I also did not want to dominate her evening. So I excused myself to solder build-kit together in the other room. I intended to continue the conversation later in the evening, but that did not happen. She had a conversation with someone else.
We did not exchange contact details, but I think the chances of bumping into each other later on are pretty high. (we met at an ‘hacker space’, which is basically a community building for tech-minded people)
But, in such a community, I think a lot of guys would be ‘hunting’ her down already, and since she was new, I did not want her to feel intimidated, so I did not signal my interest.
This seems to be a recurring pattern. I often do not signal my interests because I tend to think it will damage/complicate things.
So, how do I signal my interest without those fears?
No Clever Nickname
DEAR NO CLEVER NICKNAME: The thing to keep in mind, SGWDWTICNN, is to realize that being attracted to someone isn’t inherently bad, nor is asking somebody out on a date automatically rude or intrusive. The way you do it can be problematic, sure. The guy who doesn’t take “no” for an answer, the guy who hovers around and chases off other guys, the dude who’s crude and insulting or uses their social circles like a pick-up bar… those guys are problems. But someone who just says “Hey, I’ve been really enjoying talking to you and I’d love to take you out to dinner some time” or “Hey, I’m going to $COOL_THING this weekend and I’d love for you to go with me” isn’t being rude or intimidating. And the guy who can get turned down and take it in stride and continue being cool with the person who turned him down? That guy’s going to be someone she’ll want to keep talking to.
So in general: if you’re low key about things and handle being turned down well, there really won’t be any problems. Now: it’s understandable that you’re worried about folks sharking on her because she’s new and pretty. You don’t want to be one of those guys. But hanging out and talking with her isn’t the same as being predatory around the new girl; that’s just being friendly. And the fact that you don’t want to dominate her evening says a lot about how you’re considerate of her feelings and comfort. You don’t have to just up and leave; you can say “Hey, I’ve been enjoying talking to you, but I don’t want to monopolize your time. Catch you a bit later?” and set the expectation that you’ll chat again – if not that night, then the next time.
Now that being said, I will advise you to be careful about alpha-nerding. I get that it’s a case of getting excited and running down the things you love because she may love them too, but that can be intimidating. Worse, it can feel less like a conversation and more like a firehose spraying nerd at someone. So for next time: slow your roll a bit and make sure she’s getting to participate in the conversation. If it helps, think of it like a game of tennis. You serve the ball, then it’s on her to volley it back. If you’re doing nothing but throwing balls at her, she doesn’t have a chance to respond or participate.
Here’s what I suggest for the next time you see her. Hang out, chat, have a good time. Then, towards the end of the conversation – when you feel it starting to wind down – tell her that you like talking to her and want to stay in touch. You might ask if it’s OK to friend her on Facebook if you’re more comfortable going that route, or you may offer your number. Let her pick whatever means of contact she’s most comfortable with. And if things are going well… ask her on a date. “Hey, I’d love to get a drink with you some time” or “hey, would you like to go see this exhibit at the tech museum this weekend?”
Being the guy who’s fun to talk to and is cool with her will help separate you from the guys who’re just cruising the fresh meat. It’ll help her feel comfortable with you; even if she doesn’t necessarily want to date, you’ll won’t be just another asshole who’s trying to get into her pants.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)