DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I need your help to save my relationship.
My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 months, we’re both nerdy and we’re both gamers. We love gaming together and most of the time everything is great. Here’s the problem: I’m an extrovert, he’s an introvert, and if he spends more than 4-5 days with a person, he has to get away from them for a few days or he goes nuts. So since we spend a lot of time together since we’re dating, every so often he has to spend a few days away from me, sometimes a week. We plan on limiting the time we spend together to 3 days a week to see how that goes. I really hate when he wants to be away from me, it hurts and I feel sad; and even though I understand why and he tells me it’s not personal it still feels horrible. Is there another way we can solve this other than me being miserable every once in a while when he needs to be away from me? If he needed to be away for work, or some other reason I wouldn’t care. But the fact that he cant stand me if I’m with him too much just really hurts. How can we eventually move in together if he can’t be with someone more than 4 or 5 days at a time? He also wants to get married eventually, but I don’t get how that would work. He thinks he could get an “alone room” in the house or something, which I think is weird.
Anyway, what’s your advice?
A Whovian’s Girlfriend
DEAR A WHOVIAN’S GIRLFRIEND: There’re a couple issues here.
The first is that you’re taking this personally, when it’s not about you at all. Your boyfriend’s behavior is about energy – how he recharges and how he expends it. As an introvert, he recharges his energy through more solitary pursuits and gets worn out being around people. An extrovert is the opposite: they get their charge from being around others and can be uncomfortable on their own for long. Some introverts are more sensitive than others and may need more time on their own, just as some extroverts have a harder time being on their own and need to be around people as much as possible. It sounds like your boyfriend is one of former – being around anyone, even in a one-on-one situation, drains him.
The thing you have to realize is that being his girlfriend doesn’t magically make you the exception to the rule; just because he loves you doesn’t mean that being around you is any less draining. It’s got nothing to do with how he feels and everything to do with what this does to his energy levels. He may love you, but he’s still going to need a chance to recharge his batteries.
And really, a room of one’s own isn’t that unusual if you can afford a place with enough bedrooms. Some people have an office in their house or apartment, others have a man cave or a craft room or set up their garage as a workspace. Having a place that’s your own little sanctuary can be valuable.
All that being said… I don’t think that’s necessarily the problem here. I think the real issue is that he’s feeling a bit smothered and wants some time on his own and doesn’t know any other way to tell you.
Spending every waking moment together isn’t a healthy measure of how awesome your relationship is, just as wanting some time on one’s own isn’t a sign that he doesn’t care or feels less than you do. Everyone has different attachment styles. Some folks like a lot of space and personal time, even in relationships. Others like to be joined at the hip with their partners at all times. You sound like the latter. Unfortunately, you’re dating one of the former, and it sounds like the two of you are working against one another. People who need space tend to react badly when their partners are clingy, while people who want lots of togetherness tend to react to someone needing space by clinging even tighter, as though this could magically fix things and make him want to spend more time with them.
Needless to say, this is a recipe for disaster.
You both sound relatively young and to be perfectly honest, it sounds like neither of you have had too much experience with committed relationships. Your boyfriend is one of those types where spending nearly every day together is going to be way too intense for them, especially when it’s a brand new relationship. Add that to the fact that he’s an introvert and, well, you’re probably overwhelming him and he’s desperate for some alone time. Of course, it doesn’t help that he doesn’t really know how to TELL you this – especially since you’re already getting anxious over the fact that he needs time at all.
So the two of you need to sit down and have a long Awkward Conversation about how this is going; how is he going to get his need for space met while also meeting your need for togetherness. And when you do talk, you need to make a point of realizing that his needing personal space has nothing to do with how he feels about you. If you are going to get upset over his wanting time on his own, then your relationship isn’t going to work out. Really, getting together three days a week – every other day, perhaps – is entirely reasonable, especially as the two of you learn how to work with one another. Most couples at your stage are usually lucky to see one another on the weekends and meeting up during the week for a quick lunch or mini-date. You can always adjust things as you get more experienced with handling one another’s needs.
And as a total aside: honestly, three months is too soon to be talking about moving in together and way too soon to be talking marriage. Slow your roll, talk out your issues and see if you can find a compromise that works for both of you.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I would like your opinion on something.
I sort of have feelings for one of my friends girlfriends. Now before you start playing “Jessie’s Girl” I do NOT want to act on these feelings. I like my friend and his girlfriend and I’m glad they’re in a happy relationship. I don’t want to do anything to ruin it.
I mostly just have fantasies about her, but I quickly get rid of those thoughts. I think the reason why have these thoughts about are because of my own relationship issues. You see I’m in my second year of college, busy with the work that comes with it and I have pretty bad approach anxiety, so my love life is non-existent. My friend’s girlfriend is the only attractive girl I’ve talked to on a consistent bias.
So I guess my question is it okay that I have fantasies about my friend’s girlfriend as long as I don’t act on them?
My Best Friend’s Girl Friend
DEAR MY BEST FRIEND’S GIRLFRIEND: Dude, what goes on between your ears is nobody’s business but your own. You’re welcome to fantasize about anyone you damn well please. Jerk it to visions of Mother Teresa or Billy Graham or Hank Williams Jr. if that’s your thing.
But let’s talk about your feelings for a moment. You don’t need to stress yourself out about what to do about these inconvenient feels you’ve developed for your best friend’s girl. You have a crush, that’s all. People get crushes all the time, whether they’re young or old, single or married for 30 years. It’s all part of the human experience, and all it means is that you’re a human who finds other people attractive.
Crushes, as intense as they can feel sometimes, are inherently ephemeral. They fade on their own, especially if you’re not doing anything to maintain it. Both trying to pursue it and trying to repress it only makes them stronger. All either of those do is put the state of I HAVE FEELS front and center in your brain, where you can’t possibly ignore it.
On the other hand, if you just acknowledge it, note it and just let it wash over you and past you without doing anything about it, it’ll fade on its own, sooner rather than later.
But really, the best thing you can do is deal with the source of the problem. You’re right: while I’m sure your friend’s girlfriend is an amazing woman, the reason you’ve imprinted on her like a baby gosling is because she’s the only attractive woman you’re talking to. She’s sexy, she’s nice and – most importantly, she’s safe. Your subconscious has decided it’s ok to lust after her because you know there’s no chance of things going anywhere; you’re not risking rejection by talking to her because you already know how it would turn out.
This isn’t going to be healthy for you in the long run, and the best thing you can do is, frankly, to go meet other women. You don’t necessarily need to date them, but exposing yourself (er… as it were) to other women out there is going to make it easier to deal with these guilt-inducing fantasies of yours. And if you happen to get a date or get laid out of it… yahtzee!
So you’ll need to work on getting a handle on your approach anxiety. The best way to do that is to slowly desensitize yourself and get used to just being able to talk to other people. Go check out the archives on my site and read my posts about dealing with approach anxiety; I outline how to go about getting more comfortable with approaching strangers. The more you interact with other attractive – and, critically, available – women, the less you’ll be consumed by these thoughts that’re making you feel so uncomfortable.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)