DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 40-year-old man. About four years ago, I dated a (mostly) wonderful woman. We were very compatible, had a great time together, and I thought we had a great bond.
The problem is, she got it in her head that I was likely to cheat on her and nothing I did seemed to convince her otherwise. The relationship was long distance. Not too far, only an hour drive. We would text all day when we could, had a Facetime call most evenings, and I spent most weekends with her.
She caught me in a white lie about something once. I don’t actually recall what it was but it was minor and she would bring it up every so often as “proof that I could not be trusted.”
She also would go through my Instagram likes and if I liked any photos of other women, I would hear about it. She even became convinced that an acquaintance of mine was after me. There was always some attempt to lure me into a “Gotcha!” or catch me in a lie. It was very oppressive.
As I mentioned, we broke up. I was tired of living under a microscope and being branded a cheater and untrustworthy. I don’t miss her. I do wish her well. She’d been cheated on before so I understand where she’s coming from but I do not appreciate the way she kept trying to make me guilty.
I’ve gone on a handful of half-hearted dates since but I’m burnt out. It hurts that she called my character into question like that and it’s made me not want to deal with another person’s expectations.
How do I let go of that?
– Guilty Until Proven More Guilty
DEAR GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN MORE GUILTY: ’m so sorry this happened to you, GUPMG. You were in a s
tty, toxic relationship and you didn’t deserve what your girlfriend was doing to you. Everything that your girlfriend was doing — from the accusations, to the interrogation, to trying to constantly catch you lying to her — is classic abusive behavior. All of the things she was doing were to keep you under her control at all times. By constantly accusing you of cheating and searching for “evidence” of your being unfaithful or less than truthful, she was attempting to keep you off balance and constantly paying attention to her. As long as you’re always afraid that she’s going to get upset at you, you’re much more likely to do whatever it takes to keep her happy… or at least to not “make” her get upset.
But here’s the important part: THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. Everything that she was doing was s
tty, unreasonable and, more importantly, unacceptable and you shouldn’t make excuses for her. The fact that she’d been cheated on does not excuse what she did to you. If she has trust issues or a difficult time accepting that someone loves her and is being faithful to her, that is her problem to solve. It is not — and I want to emphasize this again, NOT — your responsibility to fix for her, nor was it your responsibility or duty to manage her emotional state. She was abusing you, gaslighting you and destroying your soul in the process and IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT.
Once more, with feeling: THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. You did nothing wrong, you were not responsible for the way that she treated you and you did not deserve one second of the s
t you were subjected to. You were being abused and while I get that you miss her, you are WELL rid of her.
Right now, you don’t need to be going on dates. What you need to do is recognize that your ex was harming you and that you need to heal from that. So take some time away from dating. You need to give yourself time to recover. I strongly suggest that you talk to a counselor or find a support group for people in emotionally abusive relationships. Talking to someone can go a long way towards helping you process what happened, recover from it and put it behind you. Remember: THIS WAS NOT YOUR FAULT. Your ex was an abuser, but she’s gone now. You’re free, you’re safe, and you will feel better.
What happened to you was cruel and unfair. But you will get better. You made it through this, and that’s a testimony to your strength, your heart and your will. Things suck now, but they will get better.
You’ll be ok. I promise.
All will be well.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: About a year and a half ago I recommended a friend of mine to a dentist I do some work (non-clinical) for on the side. My friend is a really good guy who’s had terrible luck with women. I know my friend really likes this dentist in THAT way, (he talks about her all the time) but he’d never ask her out because she’s his dentist. Based on some hints from the staff at the dentist’s office, I think she’s into him as well, but of course, she wouldn’t ask him out because she’s his dentist.
The thing is, they would be perfect for each other! On top of all the ways the many ways they are compatible, not to mention they’re presumed attraction, they are both genuinely nice people who deserve a chance to be with a genuinely nice person.
Should I drop one or the other (or both) a hint that, professional relationship aside, if one of them asked, the other would probably say “yes”? Or do I have to just accept that these are just two ships passing in the night?
DEAR CUPID’S TOOTHBRUSH:
This is a “not just no, but HELL no” situation.
Let’s leave the “do they like each other” question aside for the moment and focus on a slightly more important matter.
There’s a reason why she won’t ask him out, CT: she’s his dentist. It’s literally against the rules for dentists to date their patients. There are multiple regulations — at the licensing level, at the board level and at the state level — that prohibit doctors, nurses, dentists and dental hygienists from dating or sleeping with clients. Hell, a dental hygienist in Ontario recently had his license stripped from him for having with a client… who happened to be his wife. If the two of them want to date — and that’s a pretty big if — then the first thing that would have to happen is that he’d have to find a different dentist and formally quit being her patient, then they can start pursuing a relationship. And if she isn’t interested in dating him, then he’s gonna have to find a different dentist anyway because that’s gonna put a bit of a kink in their doctor/patient relationship.
It’s good to want to help your bud out and hook him up with someone. But when hooking him up requires the intervention of the ethics board and the licensing committee, then we’re talking about a potential for consequences that vastly outweighs the good intentions.
As frustrating as it may be, not every compatible match is one that’s worth pursuing. Be a good friend; help him find someone who doesn’t have an ethical conflict of interest that would preclude her from dating him.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org