Hello, internet! Welcome to Ask Dr NerdLove, the only dating column that's authorised under article 15 of the Shadow Proclamation.
This week, we're talking about dating anxieties and inconvenient emotions. Whether it's jealousy springing up from one reader's partners' newfound fame or a crush that couldn't come at a worse time, handling those obnoxious moments of doubt and insecurity is a part of how we make relationships work.
It's time to face our fears, stare down those anxieties, and get past the need to preserve our egos in the face of adversity and occasional alien invasions.
Let's do this.
My girlfriend and I have been seeing each other for four strong years. After graduating from school, she found a job out of the city and we try our best to visit each other every 2-3 weeks.
As recently as a few months ago, she started devoting her time to Twitch professionally. While I'm proud of her for finding a lucrative hobby, I've found it has hurt our relationship. We communicate less, and I've found it difficult accepting and being accustomed to the notion of her receiving donations and having to speak with so many men.
I recently discovered that she's been receiving gifts from one in the mail personally. This individual even offered to buy her lingerie that she declined. Despite all this, she has agreed to meet him in person and has met other fans or online friends IRL without telling me.
I'm struggling to determine if my fears here are warranted. I worry about her safety, but there's the jealous boyfriend part of me that believes this is inappropriate. I think she needs to re-evaluate her values and integrity. There's a part where she needs to draw the line and remember that she's not single. It's already difficult enough doing long distance, but now there's probably hundreds of guys that want to sleep her that she needs to talk to and she's beginning to meet. It's a precarious situation.
Can you make any sense out of this for me? We have a mutual friend that makes over $US70,000 a year on Twitch alone and she's warned both of us that it will destroy our relationship. I'm inclined to agree.
A worried fan
I'd say congratulations to your girlfriend for apparently finding some success as a professional internet personality, AWF, but it seems like this is already causing you some stress. Allow me to reassure you: a lot of the problems you're having are in your head.
I'm not being dismissive of your concerns. It's just that you're an example of "the problem you're having isn't the problem you think you're having", and we're going to have to dig into both to work things out.
Let's start with your worries about your girlfriend and her fans. Part of trying to succeed at any business -- especially one as personality-driven as Twitch streaming -- is building your audience. When you're starting out, being accessible and approachable is a huge part of how you connect with them. By making people feel like they're a part of things, by forming a community, you start to build that core group of fans who will then become your best marketing force. They become your internet street team, as it were, sharing links and commenting and driving more people your way. Community meet-ups are all part of building your brand, promoting yourself, and helping develop that sort of tribal identity of "So-And-So's Fans". This is all part of how we market ourselves in the internet era.
Of course, one of the drawbacks to being a visible woman on the internet is that a lot of dudes have shitty boundary issues and will assume -- or try to create -- levels of intimacy that aren't there. One of the ways of doing this? Trying to buy her affections by sending gifts, including wildly inappropriate ones like lingerie. This means trying to find a balance between rejecting the gift (or accepting it without strings) and keeping the fan, which can be difficult at times.
(And sometimes it means kicking the fan to the curb because screw it, your boundaries are your boundaries and they aren't any good if you don't enforce them.)
So, much as with people who date celebrities, you're going to have to accept that this is part of the price of entry for her new job.
That having been said, the problem isn't that there're all these guys who want to bang your girlfriend, AWF. The problem is you. You're jealous of these other guys who're suddenly in her life. See, the fact that other folks wanna sleep with your sweetie doesn't mean that suddenly your competition has increased and now your relationship is in danger. The fact that other people might want something doesn't mean sweet bugger-all if she doesn't want to sleep with them. The problem is that you don't seem to trust her or your relationship and that is relationship poison. Being long-distance is hard enough and puts a significant strain on a relationship, especially if there's no end-date in sight. Being long-distance and not trusting your girlfriend to be true to you? That's gonna kill things deader than disco, whether there's anything untoward going on or not.
If you want to fix things and make sure your relationship can go the distance? You need to fix things on your end. The magic words here are "communication, communication, communication". If you're constantly complaining about her job and her fans when you talk, I'm not surprised that you're talking less. How would you feel if she were always telling you how much she hates something you love?
You need to be willing to talk to her and express how you're feeling, not so that she'll stop or change her ways but so that she can reassure you. Instead of trying to get her to stop meeting people or being more distant, let her talk you off the ledge so that you can relax and trust this person you care about.
It can help to get more familiar with her business plans, with how she's marketing things and how these meet-ups go. There might be areas where some better practices might be a good idea -- an online service such as Amazon Wishlist, for example, so they don't have her address, group meet-ups instead of meeting fans one on one (if she's doing that; I kind of have my doubts) -- but being a public face means facing the public. Getting jealous and insecure about the attention she's getting will just push her away.
I've got something quite different for you and I'd greatly appreciate your help because I honestly don't know what I'm doing wrong:
I'm a girl in college and there are constantly guys hitting on me. Which wouldn't be too bad in itself - However, as I'm not looking for a relationship or hookup or whatever (I might be asexual or gay or something, I just don't know, I never cared to find out), I politely turn them down as soon as they announce any kind of romantic interest in me.
And here comes the twist: Once I turn them down, they hate me. No matter how politely I tell them that I'm not interested, they all start behaving like total arseholes towards me - which is very, very irritating and incredibly frustrating. There is one guy, for example, who keeps bullying me whenever I pass by (I thought we were friends until I had to shoot him down because he told me that he dumped his girlfriend so we can be together).
And then there's another one (he told me that he loved me after knowing me for three days and I told him, truthfully, that I do not love him because I hardly know him) who acts incredibly jealous whenever there are (male) friends around me - my friends told me that he actually tells them to stay away from me as soon as I'm out of earshot. I thought he'd calm down and leave me alone once he got a girlfriend - but now that he has one, he has just become even nastier, always telling me how much better his girlfriend is than me in every possible way. Which is... Incredibly hurtful. (I told him once that he hurt me when he said that I'm stupid anyway - it just resulted in him grinning and triumphantly saying that he does not care, then walking away).
There are even more but those two are the main offenders. What have I done to them (except not reciprocating their feelings)? I have not set out to hurt them. I just want to be friends with people and get along with them but it seems that most guys mistake my kindness/politeness for affection. I'm just here. And just by being here, they start hating, harassing and deliberately hurting me.
What the hell is wrong with me, what am I doing to aggravate people like this and how the hell do I stop this?
Here's the frustrating thing about your question, Confused: you're not doing anything wrong. Your problem isn't that you're leading them on or aggravating them, your problem is that these people are arseholes.
What's going on here is pretty classic ego-protection. Ever notice how in online dating, dudes messaging women will be thirsty as hell but when she says no, then suddenly she's a fat ugly whore they wouldn't screw with a borrowed dick? Same thing here. They have been shot down, they're feeling hurt and so they're trying to repair the damage to their ego by lashing out at you.
It's not fair and it's shitty, but it's on them to put on their big-boy pants and deal with getting turned down like adults.
Is it possible that your default friendly behaviour is flirty and accidentally giving off wrong signals? Theoretically, yes. In practice… probably not. Odds are much better that people are seeing what they want to see, if not making it up from whole cloth. This tends to happen a lot, especially if you're dealing with people who aren't the most socially experienced. Folks who want a specific answer (you're into them!) will read the tea-leaves until they get the answer they want.
Now, what can you do? Well, if these people are being dicks to you, cut them out of your life. You don't need their drama and their bullshit. Enforce your boundaries and tell them to go away. You don't need to be mean or hurtful about it, but you do need to be firm. Your ex-friend who keeps singing the "My New Girlfriend" song at you? Give a very polite smile, say "Well, isn't that nice. Bye now!" and walk on. Failing that, it's "Well isn't that nice? Don't care." Failing that: "Really don't care. Fuck off and die in a fire."
If you're especially worried about this in the future -- especially as you sort out your sexual identity over time -- then it may help to be a little more reserved with guys. But arseholes are gonna arse, and the best thing to do? Cut them out as soon as they show those arsehole behaviours.
So I am currently married. (Just some back story real quick) We met a few years back at my old job and got along well. Not having dated in a while, I decided to ask her out since we had a lot in common, both play video games, watch the same stuff, read same books etc. After a few dates and just hanging out, a relationship started and I went with it. What I mean by going "with it" is that before her I hadn't been in a relationship for about 5 years, so jumping into a relationship seemed like the best thing ever! At the time I felt that I would never get another chance at love, and I was mostly a depressed mess. After about 2 years we moved in together, and a year later we got engaged. And it has been great.
The main reason for the back story is that throughout most of this relationship, I had a feeling of doubt and uncertainty, even up to getting engaged and getting married (I totally had cold feet at the wedding, but wrote it off as just jitters). I feel that for me, this relationship was comfort in knowing there was something there, and that I was not alone anymore.
Don't get me wrong, I do love my wife. We get along well and I can honestly say that I am happy. But here is my issue...
At my new job I have developed a HUGE crush on a girl that works there. By HUGE I mean that I cannot stop thinking about her. She is constantly on my mind, and I cannot seem to make it stop. I feel depressed when I don't get the chance to see her around work, and I feel my heart skips a beat when she talks to me or if she just smiles at me in meetings. A few times she has gotten me something to eat if i'm stuck working through my lunch.
We don't hang out or talk much outside of work, but I still feel this way about her, it's something I can't seem to shake off. On top of that, a few co-workers (at different times) have mentioned that she is "into me" which makes this whole situation worse. I do get the feeling that she likes me. She talks to me when she needs to vent and has told me that i'm someone that she really trusts.
I can honestly say that I did not feel this way when I met my wife for the first time... and that's what bothers me the most.
What can I do? Since we work together it's hard to just avoid her, and even then that might be a shitty solution since I feel that we are at least friends. I am in a happy relationship but I just can't seem to get over this crush. I know that it's stupid to even consider pursuing this, and that I shouldn't throw away what I have... but part of me wonders, what if?
I thank you for taking the time to read this mess, any help would be greatly appreciated.
- Stupid love fool
Slow your roll there, chief. Before you torture yourself any further or torpedo an otherwise happy and healthy relationship, let's talk a little about love, monogamy and inconvenient emotions. One of the biggest mistakes people make about love and sexual attraction is that it's a zero-sum game; once you're in love with someone, you no longer want anyone else, and if you do, it means you don't love the other person.
Bullshit. Sexual attraction doesn't shut down because you're in love. You may focus on one person for a little while you're in that twitterpated stage where everything about them is magical and you're caught up in the new relationship energy. But that stage ends and that initial passion fades and you realise you want to have sex with other people, too. That doesn't mean you're not in love, it just means you're a mammal with a sex-drive. Monogamy means you don't sleep with other people; it doesn't mean that you won't want to.
Similarly, there are people who you're instantly attracted to when you meet them and who set off fireworks in your pants, and there are people with whom attraction grows over time. That doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with your relationship or that you chose the wrong person, it's just how attraction works sometimes. Welcome to the human experience.
Here's the thing: crushes happen. They happen all the damn time. Doesn't matter if you're deliriously happy with your partner or not; sometimes somebody comes along and your libido goes "ooh, what's this?" regardless of your life circumstances.
A crush is just a minor infatuation with someone. What it's not is a command, a contract, an obligation, or something that you otherwise have to do something about. Because crushes also go away, as long as you don't do something stupid. Like, say, try to force it away.
One of the dumbest things you can do is to try to force yourself to not feel something. Ever try to not think of a purple elephant? Suddenly it's all you can think about, all the damn time. Similarly, if you try to force yourself to not feel the little stirring in your heart and junk about your co-worker, you're going to find it's the only thing you think about and it's going to prompt you to make stupid decisions.
Of course, the second dumbest is to make things harder for yourself if you don't have the willpower to leave it alone. If that's the case, then I'd suggest that you keep your interactions with her strictly professional and work-based. Make sure you don't find yourself alone with your crush or at social events where alcohol is flowing and decision-making might be impaired. Don't let your co-workers play Cupid, either. There's no point in throwing yourself into temptation's path if it's just going to blow up your life.
So, what should you do about it? Enjoy it. Crushes are fun! Let that energy and excitement flow through you and plow it into your relationship (and your wife). Hell, jerk off to the idea of your crush… not only is there nothing wrong with fantasies, but your post-orgasm brain will probably stop and realise that no, it doesn't want to do anything about this after all.
Your relationship with your wife is one thing. Your crush is another. The only time the two connect is when your jerk-brain is using your anxieties about your relationship to make that crush seem more desirable. What seems massively important now can be very minor when your boner isn't trying to get its two cents in. Leaping off the metaphorical cliff is a great way to leave yourself screwed when that crush goes away.
Crushes may come out of nowhere, but they go away too. So chill out, feel your feels, rub one out on occasion and just let things be. You'll be fine.
Have you dealt with an inconvenient crush? Did you face the difficulties of dating someone popular? Ever been a famous Youtube or Twitch personality and have advice to share? 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.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby