DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m almost a 40 years man and I’m in a relationship for about 20 years with a woman almost my age.
We’ve got our moments of pain and the last year we decided to break it because there were too many problems. She was depressed, not diagnosed but it was evident: she stopped taking care of herself, stopped working, we stopped having sex, we stopped doing things together. It went on for 4 years.
I tried to help without success, I tried to take her to a doctor but she didn’t want to so… I did not cheat or anything, but I was not happy and tried to search someone else, so I left her. We kept in touch.
In the meantime she changed, a lot, she found a job, lost some pounds, she was back to the living and I fell in love again. Now we’re back together and now I’m happy, but also worried.
We have a lot of common interests, we’re watching movies, playing games, nerding out all day long, cuddling and having sex often, but she seems interested only in my head and not the rest of me.
I have to say that I started taking care of myself too, building some muscles, taking a haircut once a month, but she’s not interested in all of that, and this bugs me. A lot.
I always point out how beautiful and intelligent she is (and she is, believe me), but she never compliment me on anything, and I need to know if she likes me. I mean: she says yes when I ask directly but then points out that it’s not fair that she have to comfort me on my confidence problems. I’m as confident as the next guy, but obviously never hearing some feedback makes me wonder if I have some issues with my appearance or anything else. She never say anything mean about me, physically at least.
I even asked her why she doesn’t do anything to seduce me, maybe some makeup, flirt a little, some lingerie, but she gets angry, accusing me of wanting to take her out of her comfort zone, and saying that it’s stupid to ask that an intelligent woman like herself to do such things. And this is bulls
t I think, the issue must be something else.
To be honest it does not take a big toll on my confidence, and I don’t feel abused or stuff like that, but after 20 years would be nice to feel seduced and sexy for my significant other, it would give me some peace. The sex is great but that’s not everything I think. I don’t know, I feel like I need some reassurance that everything’s really ok.
I thought that maybe she’s just shy, or insecure, or maybe a consequence of her depression. But as I said going to a doctor is not something she’ll do, no matter how much I insist.
I’m just worried that our relationship will end again because she’s not really into me.
Need To Feel Wanted
DEAR NEED TO FEEL WANTED: OK NTFW, let’s start with the obvious: your wanting to feel wanted and appreciated by your girlfriend is completely legitimate and reasonable. It’s easy to say “of course she likes you, she’s your girlfriend, isn’t she?”, but as the saying goes, you’re not just a person, you’re also a piece of meat. You want to feel wanted by the person you love… and you’re not getting that from her.
And that, honestly, is not an unreasonable thing to ask for from your partner. It’s one thing if you’re a bottomless pit of need, constantly looking to your girlfriend for validation and never taking “yes” for an answer. And it’s not that you don’t believe that she doesn’t like you – after all, people rarely spend so much time with someone they don’t like.
But you, like a lot of people, would like some feedback. You’d like a little appreciation for the work you put into taking care of yourself. You’d like a little flirtiness, a little playfulness, some sense that she desires you, the way that you desire her. And yeah, if the sex is great, then the desire may be there… but there’s still something different about hearing someone you lust after tell you that they want to climb you like a tree.
So what we have here is a situation where you have emotional needs that aren’t getting met. And again: that’s real. That’s a legitimate need. And it sucks that you’re feeling this lack.
Now, where I think you’re wrong is in the origin of the problem. I don’t think the issue is that her depression has come back. Nor, for that matter, do I think that it’s a case of her feeling shy or insecure.
I think the issue is, at its core, that this isn’t how she expresses her affection for others.
There’s a lot of talk about “love languages” and the way that we tell our partners how we feel. Some do so through touch, others through acts of service. Some do it verbally and others do it through gifts or attention or presence. The problem arises when you have two people who don’t necessarily express their feelings in languages that the other person recognizes.
I suspect that what your girlfriend says and what you can hear are two different things. And that can be a problem. When you have two people who can’t at least understand each other’s language – as it were – then you have cases where someone’s needs aren’t getting met, even when the other person is trying to fulfill them.
And I suspect that some of this may arise from the fact that your girlfriend doesn’t find certain things necessary or desirable. The bit about her moving out of her comfort zone or being too intelligent to be seductive or wear lingerie is telling. A lot of times, we can treat sex and sexuality as being the opposite of intelligence; look at the stereotype of the blonde bimbo. She’s got a dynamite body and lips that could make a preacher kick in a stained glass window, but the light in her eyes is shining through the hole in the back of her head.
So it could well be that your girlfriend believes that being sexy or seductive isn’t something “smart” girls do; it’s the mark of a bimbo. And it could also be that she has some insecurities about her body or her sexuality that she masks by choosing to believe that they’re silly and dumb and beneath her.
Or… those could just not be things she values. She may not bring up your body or your looks because it doesn’t really factor into her appreciation for you. She may very well want you for your brain instead of your ass. And that just may be how she’s wired, and there’s nothing to be done about it.
Regardless of the reason, you two need to have a conversation about your needs. You’re not happy with how things are going and, frankly, things aren’t going to change on their own. So it’s time to have The Awkward Conversation, where you tell her what you’re afraid of, what you need, why things would be better if you two did the things that you need… and then give her space to share her view on things. If she doesn’t understand why you’re asking for the things you’re asking for, she may not realize how much you’re hurting. And if you don’t understand her side of things, then you may keep asking for things in ways that she can’t understand or for things that she can’t give.
This can be scary. It can bring up potential minefields in the relationship. It may reveal that the two of you just can’t meet each other’s needs. But it’s also the only way you can resolve things, ‘cuz it sure as hell ain’t going to solve itself.
But unless the two of you can get a decent translation of the other’s language?
Well, it’s just going to leave both of you annoyed and unfulfilled.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Should you bother staying friends with someone who all but ghosted you the moment he started dating someone? I’ve got a friend who started dating his roommate within weeks (maybe days) of moving in with her. Not long after that, he pretty much stopped hanging out with EVERYONE he knew. Most of us haven’t seen him ages, although he exists given that he occasionally contacts us. But he never seems eager or willing to spend time with us beyond the token response agreeing that we should do something some time…
Anyways, as somebody who spent so much time hanging out with this guy to the extent that folks asked me if there was something between us, I find it a bit disappointing that the guy would drop his closest friends the moment he started getting his dick wet, but if I’m not worth his time, I feel like he’s not worth mine anymore.
I probably won’t outright cut him out of my life, but I probably won’t put any effort into things anymore. So the real question is: Am I making the right choice?
– To Absent Friends
DEAR TO ABSENT FRIENDS: My dude, your friend is going through a fairly standard phase. He’s twitterpated. He’s hung up on the sex. He’s deep within the honeymoon period of a new relationship, when everything is amazing, his girlfriend is the most magical creature in the world and he gets erections that could break concrete just thinking about the curve of her neck.
This happens a lot – especially when you’re young and and new to dating. Folks get blissed out and spend all their time with their new squeeze because they’re mainlining dopamine straight to the pleasure centers of the brain.
Now there can be times when abandoning his friends is a sign of being isolated by an abusive partner, and that’s something to watch out for.
But odds are higher that he’s just caught up in the thrill of the new and banging out with someone hot.
What do you do? Give your boy some time. He’ll come back around again. The sex will slow down, the novelty will start to fade, and he’ll come up for air again and he’ll start to be more social again. So keep the lines of communication open and let him know you all still want to see him. Sex is exciting and can steal your attention away, but close, intimate friendships between men are rare and important. Don’t let something as silly as a new girlfriend come between the two of you.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)