DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am in a happy long term relationship with a very stereotypical nerdy genius type. He is a great guy and with the exception of two things drive me insane, we have a fantastic relationship.
He’s a physicist who is currently earning a second degree in engineering. And in the ultimate cliche while being absolutely brilliant, he is also completely lacking in any common sense or short term memory what so ever, especially when it comes to the people and spaces around him. A few examples:
1. He recently smacked one of my girlfriends on her ass to get her to step out of the doorway he wanted to enter. When confronted on the utter inappropriateness of his action, his response was “Well if she had been facing the other way I just would have bopped her on the head. What’s the big deal?”
2. I had major surgery on my elbow recently. He came up behind me and gave me a very tight hug, squeezing the exact spot of the surgical incision. I screamed in pain and would have chalked it up to a one time error, only he did three more times after that, leading me to tell him that until I am fully recovered he is banned from hugging me from behind.
3. Similar to the second example, he has a habit of constantly coming up behind me to try and hug me or kiss my neck. He thinks it’s sweet and romantic, however he does it at the worst possible times, such as when I am making dinner. I have burned myself several times because he snuck up behind me while I was stirring a boiling pot.
And that leads me into the other issue I have. He is 35 years old and because he is over weight, has low self esteem, and is extremely socially awkward, I am the first relationship he has ever had that has lasted more then a few months. And because I have been his first in so many things, he is the clingiest, neediest person I have ever met. He cannot go more then 5 minutes without needing to hold me and fondle me which makes me extremely uncomfortable, especially in public settings. When he gets socially overwhelmed he tends to treat me like a security blanket, literally draping himself on top of me and trying to kiss my neck, shoulder, whatever body part is closest to him. If I try to get him to stop being on top of me, he will still follow behind me. Our friends have commented many times that he acts like a puppy following his human, and that dynamic disturbs me immensely.
I don’t dislike affection, but I am not a PDA person beyond holding hands or a quick hug or kiss. And even when we’re alone together, there reaches a point where I am ready to just chill out and stretch on the couch, but he still needs to be on top of me. If I make plans to go out with my friends he immediately asks to tag along and gets sulky when I tell him I need some girl time.
I’ve tried explaining to him that every time he ignores my requests to stop being on top of me he is not respecting my boundaries, his response was to say that since we are in a serious relationship we shouldn’t have any of boundaries.
I don’t know if the problem is him or me or both. I just know that these two things are driving me crazy and we’ve reached the point where we’re looking for an apartment. I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to handle him not letting me have any space at all and if he keeps not paying attention to anything, I’m afraid he’ll set the apartment on fire! Is there a way to get him to pay more attention to the things that bother me or is there a way to teach myself to get less annoyed by it? I’ll take either one at this point. I love and adore him, I just don’t know how to deal with these two aspects of his personality on a constant basis.
Thanks for you help,
Not A Security Blanket
DEAR NOT A SECURITY BLANKET: So normally like to go through letters like these in the same way they’ve been laid out, addressing each issue as it comes up. But frankly, NASB, you dropped one GIANT red flag in the middle of this and I’m not getting past it.
“I’ve tried explaining to him that every time he ignores my requests to stop being on top of me he is not respecting my boundaries, His response was to say that since we are in a serious relationship WE SHOULDN’T HAVE ANY BOUNDARIES.”
Holy hopping sheep s
t, NASB, how did this line not tell you that this is a bad scene? Why did his saying those words not send you running like all of Hell and half of Hoboken was after you? I’m sorry, but being in a relationship does not negate the existence of boundaries and the fact that he so flagrantly disregards them – insisting that they shouldn’t even exist – is a GREAT BIG FLASHING sign that this relationship is in trouble.
You say he’s a great guy. OK, if you say so.
I don’t believe it, but I’ll roll with it for now.
The issue is that his behavior here is telling me that he’s got a giant host of problems. He smacked the ass of someone he presumably doesn’t have ass-smacking privileges with and doesn’t see the problem with it. He ignores your very clearly stated boundaries. He’s forever clinging to you – literally – in social situations, even when he knows they make you uncomfortable. He doesn’t give you space, ever, and he gets sulky and resentful that you need time to yourself or with your friends. Knowing all this – even knowing in advance that being in a tight space with him is going to drive you nuts – you’re planning on getting an apartment together?
I’m sorry to put it this bluntly but that’s an incredibly stupid idea. You’re getting annoyed by him because the way he’s acting isn’t just immature and clingy but downright unacceptable in a lot of cases. I sympathize that the guy’s got low self-esteem and a bad case of being socially awkward but frankly, being socially awkward doesn’t excuse you from having to act like a grown-ass adult. This isn’t something you need to learn how to get over; your boyfriend needs to grow the hell up and get over this behavior. But to be perfectly honest, I don’t think he’s going to. Honestly, I think it’s going to get worse and the longer this relationship goes on, the more you’re going to be his mommy as well as his girlfriend.
Look, you tell me you’re happy and have a fantastic relationship, and honestly, I have to take you at your word. But this isn’t a case of someone with a few inconvenient but otherwise lovable flaws. This isn’t one or two problems, this is someone who’s acting like a 13 year old who continues to ignore your comfort or even basic wishes to not be smothered, figuratively and literally. If you want him to improve, then you’re going to have to lay down the law and let him know that his behavior’s unacceptable and needs to change. And I don’t mean a month or two on his best behavior until he figures you’ll let him slide again, I mean legitimate, lasting change. And frankly, if he doesn’t… well, I know it’s not what you want to hear, but I strongly suggest you rethink your relationship with him.
And whether you do end things or not, do not get an apartment together.
Sorry to be so blunt NASB, but that’s how I see it.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)