DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 33-year old man, and I’m writing this because I’ve realized a troubling pattern to my relationships. Namely that, whenever I start one, I become quite worried that she’s far more interested in me than I am in her, and that I’m unintentionally leading her on.
This is vain to an almost grotesque level. I have no reason to think that a woman would be so incredibly into me that her life would fall apart if I expressed disinterest. Nonetheless, I find myself troubled by the irrational fear that she might.
A bit about me: I’m a late bloomer when it comes to dating. I didn’t get my first serious girlfriend until I was 31 years old. In this case, she actually was far more interested in me than I was in her. Due to my inexperience, I didn’t really pick up on this, and I hurt her feelings when I ended the relationship.
This troubled me all through my second relationship, a year later. In this case, my fears turned out to be unreasonable. My second girlfriend liked me, but was not in love with me the way I feared. I will admit to feeling a certain relief when she broke up with me, since it meant I’d never have to worry about this with her.
Now, I’m not saying I shouldn’t keep this concern in mind—I don’t want to become callous. But having this dread hanging over my head is making it harder for me to pursue a relationship. I’m not someone who’d let a bad partner walk over me, but I hate the idea of causing emotional pain to someone who is a good partner, but whom I just don’t love enough.
I have recently met a woman, though we are not officially dating. I’m not sure if she and I will even get to that stage. Nonetheless, I’m have this same fear.
Any advice on how to handle this?
Too Much To Handle
DEAR TOO MUCH TO HANDLE: First of all, here’s a truth that nobody really likes to acknowledge: in every relationship, there’s going to be an imbalance of feeling. There will always be one partner who cares more or who cares less because hey, we’re human and love is a chaotic emotion. More importantly though is that this isn’t static either; there will be times when one partner is more invested than the other and times when that will switch. As long as those swings aren’t too extreme, it all balances out in the long-run. Welcome to the human experience; none of this shit makes logical sense because emotions could give two shits about logic and fairness.
Second of all: Dude, there’s only one thing to do here: stop overthinking this shit. You can’t control how other people feel, nor are you responsible to manage their feelings for them. You are presumably dating grown-ass adults. This means that they have a responsibility for handling their own affairs – literally. Now, it’s one thing if you’re so afraid of hurting people’s feelings or causing them upset that you’re promising them things that you can’t or won’t deliver on. That’s a shitty thing to do to someone, even if you’re doing it with the best of intentions.
But if someone else is reading more into a relationship than is actually there? You can’t control that. You can maintain a casual frame, sure. You can be clear and straightforward with how you feel about the relationship if they want to have the Defining The Relationship talk. But at the end of the day, people are ultimately responsible for managing their own feels. And frankly, the fact that you’re walking around, constantly on the lookout for signs that maybe, maybe they feel more for you than you’re comfortable with? That’s no bueno, my dude. You’re not only putting up artificial barriers between you and the person that you’re dating – which is going to hurt them more in the long-run than breaking up if the relationship’s run it’s course – but you’re keeping yourself from actually enjoying being in a relationship with someone.
Look, like I said to SitB: rejection sucks. This is true no matter which side of it you’re on. In best dating practices, you want to cause as little unnecessary pain as possible, because pain is inevitable. However, if you’re always going to have your guard up, you’re going to end up making things worse for both of you.
Like SitB, you’re letting these imagined scenarios run away with you and it’s getting in the way of your real life. You need to learn to be in the moment and appreciate what you have now instead of constantly being on guard for those What-If weasels.
Be up front about what you want and what you have to offer. Don’t try to avoid the DTR conversation for fear of leading someone on. But at the same time: just let yourself be present and accept the relationship for what it is, not what you’re afraid it might become. The harder you police other people’s feelings, the more you’re going to end up choking off relationships that might have worked if you hadn’t been so hypervigiliant and guarded.
Don’t let your anxiety close you off from what might be a wonderful experience my dude.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I just found out that my husband is watching porn with Asian girls. I don’t have any problems with him watching porn, I think is pretty normal and understandable. The problem is that now, I’m feeling really insecure. I always knew that he is attracted to Asian women (for the record, I’m not Asian), I know that he has some female friends who are Asian. It’s just that the fact that he is searching for porn with Asians makes me think that he is unhappy not being with an Asian girl. What can I do? What does this mean? Could it mean he’s not attracted to me? Or is this normal?
Worried I’m Not The Right One
DEAR WORRIED I’M NOT THE RIGHT ONE: What does it mean that your husband watches Asian porn? Assuming that he’s not avoiding having sex with you in order to masturbate to porn instead… well, mostly, it means that your husband is turned on by Asian women. But that’s an “in addition to”, not “instead of”.
It’s generally a bad idea to try to divine somebody’s personality or fetishes from their porn habits; it’s rare for someone to be attracted by ONLY one type. Your husband can be hot for Thai or Indonesian, Chinese or Japanese or Korean women and still also be attracted to you. Someone can love large breasts or full-figured women but still love and be attracted to a woman who’s petite. Someone can have a thing tall, Nordic men and still love their Indian boyfriend of average height.
There’re two basic truths when it comes to relationships. The first is that we pretty much all want to sleep with people who aren’t our partners. That has absolutely nothing to do with how attracted we are to our significant others or the strength of our relationships, it’s just part of being human. The second is that no one person can be all things to somebody. For many people, porn is how they fulfill their desires for sexual variety without stepping outside the relationship; it scratches the itch and doesn’t harm anyone.
Now, as I said: if he’s forgoing having sex with you in order to jerk off to his porn collection instead or he’s covertly seeking Asian women on Tinder and his relationships with his female Asian friends is crossing the line from “friend” to “adultery”, then you have a problem. That’s when it’s possible he’s got a fetish that he’s trying to indulge.
(Side note: I don’t advocate snooping to find out if this is true; snooping is pretty much ONLY justified in retrospect. If things are so bad that you’re willing to contemplate violating his privacy, then you might want to consider counseling first.)
But if this is just him indulging a fantasy that doesn’t interfere with the intimacy and affection the two of you have? Then it’s no big deal. Sometimes folks don’t want sex, they just want to skip to the orgasm at the end, and masturbating is the most efficient way of doing that.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)