DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 21 year old male, I go to college, go to work, just your normal everyday man. I need help understanding why this woman isn’t interested in me anymore.
It all started at my buddy’s house, let’s call him Alpha. Alpha and I were discussing how my dating life is going. I told him n,ot so good, I’m looking for someone to be with. Out of nowhere he texts this girl, Chi, he knows and puts in a good word about me. She and I graduated from high-school together, but I never really gave her much thought. Turns out that she lives right behind me, so I figured “Why not, let’s give it a shot, I might have a diamond in the rough here.”
When she responded to Alpha, she said she thought I was very good looking, which was enough for me to decide contact her. I text her and we hit it off, everything’s great. We text for a couple of days and eventually I asked her out to dinner. She said yes. We went to dinner and had one hell of a good time, the chemistry seemed to work perfectly. At the end the night, we go back to my house and where we’re cuddling in bed, making out, watching movies and drinking wine through the late night. Eventually I dropped her off at her place. We both had a great time and we’re already making future plans to see each other again.
We continue texting each other morning till night for the next couple of days. We’re flirting and sharing and deep thoughts about one another via text and how good that date was. Eventually we hung out again at her house – two days ago, in fact. I show up at her house, we go up in her room, I help her with some homework and we just watch some romantic comedies on Netflix. During all of this, it feels like we have the same amount of energy and connection as we did on the first date. I meet her parents, had a great conversation, they seemed to like me. At the end of the night, I said my goodbyes and went home.
The next morning we started texting like usual, when all the sudden out of nowhere she sends me this: “I don’t want to waste your time and I think you’re such a great person, you did nothing wrong, but I’m not in the right mindset to talk to someone right now. I’m going thru a lot of stuff w myself and I don’t think I am ready for any sort of relationship. I would love to stay friends with you because I think you are such an amazing person. I am seriously so so sorry you did absolutely nothing wrong”. Immediately I start to freak out as I have become extremely emotionally invested in this girl. I’ve never had chemistry like this with anyone before. Yeah, we have only been talking for less than a week mind you but this is the first time I have been with a girl in 3 years. I have not received any sort of attention or affection from any women, so I guess you could say I was all over that like a mouse on cheese, I’m a sap for that stuff.
My main problem here is that everything seemed to be going picture perfect, just like out of a movie, when out of nowhere, Chi sends me that text that she isn’t interested and I’m just left here to pick up the pieces. What the hell, this always happens, I start talking to a girl we hit it off great talk about how much we like each other and at the end I always end up my goddamn heart played with. All I want at this point in time is someone I can call my own, something to come home to. Who knows, maybe my mindset does not represent my current age.
I’m hoping maybe you could shed a different perspective on this.
It’s Not Her, It’s Me
DEAR IT’S NOT HER, IT’S ME: Alright, a couple of things, my dude.
First of all: I am sympathetic to the fact that this is the first serious date you’ve had in a few years. I get it. It feels like you’ve been dying of thirst in the desert and suddenly you found an oasis. But, dude. For real. You’ve been on a grand total of two dates. You’ve known her for a week. The level of despair you’re expressing here is seriously out of line with the nature and depth of the relationship. Getting “hey, thanks but no thanks” after two dates is annoying, yeah. Frustrating, for sure. It may even make you grind your teeth and wonder what the hell happened. But freaking out and declaring that your heart’s been shattered into a thousand pieces?
No. Just… no, dude.
Now I can’t tell you just what happened. I wasn’t there to silently observe your date like The Watcher, nor can I read her mind to tell you just what happened and why she suddenly seems to have gone cold on you. But based on your letter and a lifetime of experience, I’ve got a theory or two.
First of all, it’s entirely possible that it’s exactly like she said. She likes you, she really dug the chemistry you two had and had a lot of fun on your dates… but she knows herself well enough to know that she’s not in a place where she could really date someone. She can’t offer you the kind of relationship that you want and it would be unfair for her to let you live in hope of something that could never be. As such, she needs to be cruel to be kind – inflicting the necessary pain of letting you down now to spare you the lingering and deeper pain of having to reject you in the future. You know… at a time when it’d be more reasonable to be emotionally invested in her.
The other theory is that, well… you’re not the most objective participant in this. Sure, you had a first date that went gang-busters. But the second date… it may have felt amazing to you, but it wasn’t as magical for her. It could just as easily be that yeah she thinks you’re a good guy and she had a great date with you, but that second date may have confirmed for her that she’s just not feeling it.
And it’s certainly possible that, frankly, she could tell that you were way the hell more into her than is reasonable and that set off her Spidey-sense. That is going to wig people out, even if they like you. One of the keys for being somebody worth dating is that you have to have good emotional intelligence. That means, among other things, that you don’t decide that you’re in love after one or two dates. Yeah, I get that it can feel intoxicating, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve had a good date… but you need to have enough presence of mind to recognize that this is just an emotional high, not a sign from the cosmos.
And honestly this seems like it’s a pattern for you. If this “always happens” and you always get your heart shattered after one or two dates, then it’s likely that you need to seriously slow your roll when it comes to meeting people. I get that you want a serious relationship, but running full-tilt-boogie into every date like it’s your last is a great way to spook folks.
Now I’m not saying that you need to try to force yourself to not feel. That never works; all that happens is you bottle things up and the pressure builds until it explodes. What you need to do is to stop letting these emotions control you. Feel them, sure… but remind yourself that these feelings are ephemeral and the intensity is only in contrast to how lonely you’ve been feeling. Take some deep breaths, get re-centered and start to recognize the difference between excitement and a love to last the ages. The more you start to get a handle on your emotions and your expectations, the easier it’ll be for you to keep your head when you do meet someone who wants the same things you do.
It’s not a guarantee that you won’t hear “it’s not you, it’s me.” But it does mean that it won’t destroy you every time – or scare off potential partners – like it does now.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve been married for a little over a year, together for almost two years. My spouse and I both have a history of abuse and sexual assault. Our sex life is complicated, and consent is HUGE for us.
I got pregnant only a month or so into our marriage, and when I started to show, my husband’s libido took a nosedive. He said it was just too weird knowing there was a baby in my stomach. That wasn’t a big deal at first.
Now it’s nine months later. Our baby is five months old and sleeping through the night. I’m back to my pre-pregnancy dress size. My husband and I have only had sex five times in those nine months, and I’m lonely!
This isn’t an issue I’ve ever had before, because my libido is very very low. We used to have sex once every two or three weeks, and that was fine. Now we hardly even kiss.
This isn’t something I can fix with masturbation, because it’s not about orgasms. I don’t actually enjoy those. It’s the bonding sensation of sex that I miss, but I worry that if I bring this up to my husband, he’s going to feel pressured into sex. I don’t want him to feel as if he has to do anything he doesn’t want. What can I do?
Sexless in Seattle
DEAR SEXLESS IN SEATTLE: We live in a fairly sex-negative culture, SiS. We’re taught that sex is holy and sacred but also that sex is a contest of wills. That men want sex and women don’t and that these two desires are in conflict. That men who don’t want sex are weird and women who do are damaged and broken. And part of the way that this screws with people’s heads is that some guys get weird about pregnancy and becoming parents. Lousy sex-ed means that they don’t understand how vaginas and uteruses work and they think that they’re going to bump into the fetus with their dicks. Conflicting messages about who they’re supposed to bang and who they’re supposed to marry creates weird dichotomies between the “good” ones who they’re supposed to marry and the “bad” ones they can have wild and crazy sex with but would never settle down with. And if they’re in the room and see the baby being born, then they might have a minor freak out. Suddenly this part of you that until now has been about sex and intimacy and pleasure just pushed out a kid and their world view has changed. Now they can’t reconcile the image of the baby being born with the image of the sex they’ve been having and it shorts out their libido.
Even good, progressive dudes run into this problem. They see their partners as sexual beings, partners-in-crime who have crazy, swinging-from-the-chandeliers adventures… until they marry or have kids. Now that they’re parents, they see their partners as “the mother of my children”, ignoring that she’s the exact same person she was before. Marriage and parenthood becomes the death of sexual adventure because “dude, she’s a mom“.
I suspect that’s what’s going on here, SiS. I think your husband is having a hard time reconciling the idea of you as a sexual being with the idea of you being a mother. And while he may snap out of this on his own, the truth is that right now, you’re feeling a distinct loss of intimacy and connection, even if sex isn’t involved.
Now, I understand why you’re hesitant to bring this up to him. It’s admirable that you don’t want him to feel pressured into doing something he may not want to do, especially considering that you both have a history as victims of abuse. But at the same time, you have a right to advocate for your needs. And your husband may not realize that you have those needs if you don’t tell him.
So I think what you need to do is pull him aside for an Awkward Conversation. Carve out time to actually talk this out – time that you reserve specifically for this conversation. Start by explaining why you’ve been hesitant to bring this up: you don’t want him to feel pressured and why. Then explain that you are feeling disconnected from him and missing that sense of intimacy and connection. Next, lay out just what you think would make things better – more casual contact, more cuddling, more kissing and physical togetherness even if sex isn’t involved. Let him know why you think things will be better if you do this. And then… give him his turn. Let him share his thoughts about what’s going on and how he’s feeling.
And after you’ve talked things out… consider having some non-sexual cuddle-time, where the two of you just lay there and snuggle with no expectations of more. Having some time to just physically reconnect without the potential pressure of sex may help reaffirm those bonds. And the simple act of being physical with one another may also help him remember that you’re a sexual being too… and reignite some of those fires while the two of you are at it.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)