Welcome to Ask Dr NerdLove, the only dating advice column that can prove the Millenium Falcon is faster than the Enterprise NCC-1701-D. This week we have two letters, each trying to solve a fundamental relationship issue: How long do you hang in and fight and when do you finally throw in the towel? Is it nobler to hold out for as long as possible or to cut your losses and go?
Sometimes the odds are against you, so never tell me the odds.
Let's do this thing:
Dear Dr NerdLove,
Help me out on this. My boyfriend is a terrible, terrible kisser and I don't know what to do.
He's an awesome guy. We bonded over Bioshock Infinite and jogging, now we've been together for a year. We run our miles together and then go play Assassin's Creed together and joke about the lack of female characters. I love him and everything is good. Except the kissing!!
Kisses start out alright but suddenly I have his tongue deep inside my throat, just... there. Maybe moving a little, like a probe, perhaps. I have to really open my mouth. It's not sexy. It's actually a huge turn-off.
I've tried everything I can think of. From guiding him to the kind of kisses I like to straight out telling him "I like this kind of kiss" when making out. I obviously don't want to just say "You're a bad kisser" or "I don't like your kisses" because that is awful, but what else can I do?? I want us to go the distance, but I wish I won't get stuck with the surgical kisses. Any help?
No-one Likes a Dentist
If there's one activity that people consistently underestimate the importance of, it's kissing. Being a great kisser is a key component of chemistry - literally. Many scientists believe that kissing evolved as a way of checking and confirming genetic compatibility, including comparing immune systems.
Kissing is also critical to a happy relationship. Studies have found that couples who kiss more are happier and more satisfied with their partners - it helps that kissing produces oxytocin, the hormone that promotes emotional bonding and helps create feelings of love and affection.
Needless to say, the quality of the kiss counts too; when you've got a lousy kisser, you're not going to want to kiss them more often, are you? One of my more memorable hook-ups was with a woman who not only wasn't a great kisser but who neglected to mention she was a biter - there's nothing like feeling like you're suddenly mid-make-out with an especially attractive zombie, let me tell you…
Now normally, I tell people dealing with a lousy kisser to frame things as a lesson - telling him or her "Here's how I like to be kissed" and then giving a very thorough demonstration. When done right, not only do you end up with a better kisser, but the process is unbelievably hot.
But you've already been doing that, NOLD, which means it's time to take more drastic measures. Clearly he's got his "technique" and he's convinced that his Burrowing Serpent style is superior to your Wu-Tang style. So it's time to pull a three-strikes rule on your boy.
The next time the two of you are making out and he starts trying to snake your esophagus like he's clearing the drain, pull back and say "This is how I like to be kissed" and demonstrate. This is strike one. Strike two - if/when he returns to playing tonsil hockey, you pull back and say "no, I just showed you how I prefer to be kissed."
Strike three means that make-outs come to a screeching halt and it's time to have a come-to-Jesus talk about his kissing style. Because frankly, if he's not listened when you've tried to guide him gently - twice - then it's time to give him a session with the Chair Leg of Truth and his feelings will have to look after themselves.
And hey, it's not a bad idea to show him this guide to give him an idea on how he could brush up his kissing technique.
There is a girl I knew for 8 years now. We always had a very complicated relationship. I liked her, she liked me, but somehow we could never get together officially for various reasons, either on her side or mine.
We laughed together a lot as friends, we hurt each other a lot, probably because of the constant tension between us. More than once we tried to just leave the whole thing be and forget about it. We tried avoiding each other and closing each other out from our lives. It's been 2 years and I can't forget about her.
It's like there's this feeling very deep inside of me, that our lives together would be perfect. That I wouldn't be happy with anyone else but her. I also have this feeling, that eventually we will end up being together and it will either have a very good ending, or a very bad one, BUT it will happen for sure.
It's not like I didn't give it my all to forget about her. I've read your articles. I focused on improving myself all the time. I'm working out, I studied harder, I have more-or-less a successful life, or at least on the right track to it.
I also get offers from other girls rather frequently. But I keep thinking, "what's the point?" I don't love those girls. I could have them as "cleaners". I could have my way with them, but it wouldn't ever be the same, even though they are very nice and kind girls. I don't feel like lying to them and eventually hurting them. I'd blame myself way too much for that, I just can't bring myself to do that. I don't love them so those relationships wouldn't fruit anything. So why bother? I just prefer solitude instead.
Have just casual relationships/one night stands with women? Nah. I'm a player but not a man-hoe. I like flirting a lot and stuff, but I never go beyond that. It's just not my style.
I want to know your opinion on this. I don't really have a dilemma, I got this pretty much sorted out for myself. I either end up with her, or a girl I love as much as her (which I find unlikely) or just simply alone (which I'm honestly absolutely fine with). I just wanted to know what's your take on this. Ever experienced something similar? Am I too naive (and wrong)?
Stuck On Her
Stuck, I want you to know that I am absolutely sympathetic to your feelings. I've been where you are, convinced that this one woman was the absolute apotheosis of women, that she and I were destined to have the sort of love that people write epic poems about, full of dramatic moments in front of crashing waves or punctuated by swirls of windborne cherry blossoms.
But with that being said, it's time to bring in the Hobnailed Boot of Reality to stomp all over those dreams.
What we have here, SOH, is a nasty case of Oneitis. You've convinced yourself that this girl you've loved all these years is The One with a capital T and O. And here's the hard truth, SOH: she ain't. She's not the one. There is no One. To be The One implies that you couldn't possibly find anyone else to compare to her. But to quote Tim Minchin:
"Your love is one in a million/ You couldn't buy it at any price/ But of the 9.999 hundred thousand other loves/ Statistically, some of them would be equally nice."
Now I'll be the first to agree: that's not the most romantic notion in the world. But when romance leads to willful blindness and impossible expectations… well, that's where we've got a problem.
See, at its core, Oneitis is a way of covering up an intense scarcity mentality - you have to hold onto this one relationship because she's the only person who could love you or make you happy. Perversely, though, all it does is make you miserable. In reality, Oneitis is an invitation to a neverending heartbreak as you dash yourself on the rocks of reality over and over again, watching the one person you've convinced yourself you can be happy with going off and being happy with people who aren't you.
And those are years — years — of your life where you could, y'know, actually be happy.
Here's the thing about your Oneitis. While I'm sure she's a lovely person, you've basically elevated her to mythical status… and therein lies the problem. You've invested in the fantasy of her, of the relationship that the two of you might have. The fantasy relationship, the What-Might-Have Been and What-Could-Still-Be is always the best relationship ever. You never fight and when you do, it's never one of those soul-killing screaming matches where you say things you regret before you even finish the last syllable, no, your fights are like shooting stars, bright streaks that vanish before you're even sure you saw it.
In Fantasy Relationship, everything works out; you never have those moments when you realise that you're just not wanting to fuck her as much as you used do or she's starting to have second thoughts about the relationship because she's got a crush on the guy at the office. You don't have those moments when you realise you've been arguing for a half hour over what to watch on Netflix. You never look at each other and grind your teeth at the way she always talks over you when you're out with your friends and she doesn't roll her eyes at how you keep talking about your grandiose plans that you never actually work towards. She doesn't let her health fall by the wayside and you never let your ambitions fade into resentment for lost dreams and the two of you never have nights when the sex is so out of synch that you just get angry at each other.
Fantasy Relationship is perfect, because Fantasy Relationship never happens. It is forever the archetype to compare all other, imperfect relationships to, and why risk anything less than perfection?
Well, because as long as you hold out for the fantasy, you never have to worry about reality. You never have to deal with the unpleasant sides of dating - you never have to get rejected, you never have to break up with someone, you never have to have that realisation that just because you love each other doesn't mean that it's going to work.
And even better, it lets you paint yourself as the hero.
Even your faux-stoic "If I can't have her, I will be alone for the rest of my life and that's ok" pose is in service of the fantasy; it makes you into a heroic Martyr for True Love rather than someone who can't let go and move on. That voice inside of you that says "yes this is fate" isn't your hitherto unrevealed powers of prophecy, SOH, it's confirmation bias. It's the voice of your jerk-brain telling you to hold out for that fantasy because this way you never have to be disappointed and your misery is justified because it will be part of your Epic Love Story To Last The Ages.
You know why those women you meet can't measure up? You don't give them a chance to. You have already decided that they couldn't possibly measure up to your snuggle-bunny and reject them because it's easier to pretend you're being noble about "not using them" than getting to know somebody and risking a real, imperfect relationship. That's not you being cool and noble, that's the story you're using to dress up your unwillingness to let go and take risks.
Cold hard truth: there is no One. There is nobody, your dream girl included, who is The One for you. There is the person who's close to the One, where you round up to one because they're just that awesome that what you do get in that relationship is worth what you don't.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying you don't genuinely care for her. But your dreams about being perfect together are just that: dreams. She's not the only person you could ever care for. If you give yourself a chance you'll realise you'll find other people you care about just as much.
I know this has been harsh, but believe me, it's said with total sympathy. I've been where you are. I've gone through what you've gone through and it took me even longer to pull out of the dream and to get my life back so I could actually recover and have a real relationship with someone who actually cared for me as much as I cared for them. I want to spare you the bullshit I had to go through - especially because it ultimately destroyed my relationship with my personal Oneitis.
It's time to put the fantasy away and deal with reality. This relationship you're dreaming about doesn't exist. Two years is a damned long time to be holding on, especially when you've quit being in contact.
You need to let go. Let go of the fantasy. Let go of the ego-protection. Let yourself mourn for what might have been, sure. Feel the fuck out of your feels. Give yourself a long-weekend and have a nice self-destructive bender of Maker's Mark and Chinese take-out and cry your eyes out if that's what it takes. But let it go.
Start paying more attention to those other women you say are into you. Get to know them in all of their wonderfully imperfect glory. Be amazed that, when you give people a chance, you'll find many others who are, indeed, just as nice.
Have you reformed a bad kisser? Did you pull out of the Oneitis spiral? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments and we'll be back in two weeks with more of your dating questions.
Ask Dr Nerdlove is Kotaku's fortnightly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr Nerdlove.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove and the Dr NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr Nerdlove is not really a doctor.