Hello, internet! Welcome to Ask Dr NerdLove, the first dating advice column to break through to the 8th dimension with the power of the Oscillation Overthruster. On occasion I get a reader letter that's so complex and dramatic that the only thing to do is go through it piece by piece, peeling back the layers to find out just what happened and how extensive the damage was. It's time to fling another body on the examining table and perform a relationship post-mortem.
This week, one reader's roommate relationship drama means that somebody is going to have to have a conversation with the Chair Leg of Truth. Do not offend the Chair Leg of Truth. It is wise and terrible.
Everyone scrub up. Let's do this thing.
Dr. NerdLove, I apologise in advance for this one, it's...messy.
Whenever a letter starts this way, I know I'm in for a doozy.
I moved in with a coworker last year. We'll call her RoomMate. She's been involved in my life - even dating a friend of mine - for a while.
After her most recent relationship ended (she said it just didn't click) she was single, and the day after her breaking up with the guy, she went back to her (manipulative and emotionally abusive - her words, not mine) ex, who we'll call "C".
Before we even get past the first paragraph, I can tell you that your next decision is going to be a very, very bad one. One that will likely involve alcohol, moments of vulnerability and awkward conversations the next morning.
Within days after them being together, she stormed home one night, furious at him. She was yelling on the phone with him about how she wants him out of her life, even went so far as going to his house with an armed friend to remove any gifts she had given him.
Do you ever write something down and then stop to wonder at what the hell you just said? Let's highlight this sentence for a moment: "even went so far as going to his house with an armed friend to remove any gifts she had given him."
That, my friend, is a sign that you've backed the wrong horse. When break-ups involve bringing over the Goon Squad, there is no way that anything following will be healthy.
Well, that night, she and I were drinking wine and listening to music (as we often did) and she leaned in, I leaned in, and we made out. Hard. I spent the night with her...
...but at that point, figured it was just a hookup out of convenience.
Fast forward one week, and she and I have a talk about "us", and decide to give it an honest, serious try. I have never loved a woman as intensely as I love her (yes, present tense). A little under two months in, she starts talking about marrying me, suggesting I permanently move into her room, etc, and for the first time in my relationship history, I'm completely ok with it.
Remember what I said about bad signs? Your snuggle-bunny, while she may be great with making the snu-snu, is a toxic drama bomb waiting to go off. You've already seen how things went with "C" -- a fight that lead to her going to his house with goons to take gifts back, followed by a drunken hook-up with her roommate.
And now, less than two months into your new relationship, she's talking marriage and the two of you cohabitating a little more than you already are. This isn't just one red flag, my friend. Your girlfriend is waving more red flags than a military parade in Tiananmen Square. I don't care how crazy twitterpated the two of you may be, talking marriage within two months is a very big, very bad sign. Generally, when someone is talking that level of commitment that quickly, there are one of three possibilities.
1) They are so socially miscalibrated that they don't recognise the honeymoon period of a relationship for what it is and believe that life is like a Disney movie where getting married absurdly early is a great idea.
2) They are either fantastically insecure or incredibly abusive and are looking to lock you down as quickly as possible so as you don't have time to realise it's a mistake.
3) They are drama llamas who thrive off the conflict and excitement that comes with living life like it's a telenovela and careen like a pinball from one crisis to the next.
I'll give you three guesses which one this is.
Well, soon after her, ex sending her flowers and constantly texting her about how he "just wants to be friends". As a result: she starts actively talking to him again. I told her I don't like it (again, she had filled me in on how manipulative he is), and I even told her point blank that "C's" motives were not friendship (red roses with "I love you" cards aren't a typical friends gift).
Timer on the drama bomb's ticking down…
She told me not to worry, they barely communicate, and he truly just wants to be friends.
About two weeks ago everything went to shit. She went to do laundry, and at some point that night, had a conversation with "C". I don't know what they talked about, but when she came home, she sat me down and told me she wouldn't sleep (not sex, literally won't sleep next to me) with me anymore. When I asked to know why, she told me she needed to let the part of her that loved "C" die. I didn't push further.
And boom goes the bomb. This is the point where you should have realised that things between you and Roommate were basically over. Whether "C" is as manipulative and abusive as she says or if that's just something she's told you - the fact that she herself is manipulative and toxic doesn't mean that he isn't as well - she's already making it clear that she's choosing him over you.
Getting closure and "letting the part of her that loved [him] die" usually doesn't include cutting off the person she was quite literally just sharing a bedroom with while talking with about marriage. That is a sign that she's made up her mind about what she wants and what she wants is… "C".
The very next day, she came home from work for half an hour, then left with no explanation and did not return until midnight. The next day was the same, and that's when she told me she went to have drinks with "C".
Straight talk: those probably weren't just drinks. Being euphemistic about it means that she gets to keep you on the string a bit longer. This, unfortunately, is not going to last.
Remember what I said about someone enjoying the drama of swinging from crisis to crisis? Things are only going to escalate from here and it's going to end with you getting your soul kicked in the balls.
Normally, I wouldn't have pushed any harder, but what bothered me was the night she first went to have drinks with him, everything stopped. I mean EVERYTHING. She wouldn't even greet me when I got home from work. She would even get angry for trying to give her a kiss before leaving. I also understand people need space, so I backed off.
There is "giving your partner space", which usually means either "not doing everything together" or at least "not clinging to her like a baby possum", and then there's "cutting off all forms of physical affection". Your girlfriend has dumped you without actually saying the words, because saying the words would mean that you might actually do something. Like get the hell out of there.
Well, after her hanging out with "C" on a daily basis, he gets the balls to come over in person. They hang out in the living, she smiles and hugs him when she sees him, she sits snuggled with him, and gets pissed off at me for so much as touching her shoulder - even after "C" had left - before I go to a separate room before bed.
This right here? This should have been your biggest indicator that you need to hop the Nope Train to Screw This Shitville. This is an unbelievably dickish thing to do to somebody that -- again -- she was claiming to be so in love with that she was talking about marriage. This is a matter of profound disrespect to you. And you're sitting there taking it.
Well, we ended up breaking up after "C" showed me a conversation he had with her. The gist was they were planning to meet up at his house so she could show him she's still good at giving blowjobs. I know what his motives were, and it hurt. I confronted her about it, and we broke up. She said she was joking, and had no intention of hanging out with him. She didn't go to his place that night, she stayed home, but has been hanging out with him daily since.
Oh look, they're perfectly matched dickbags. May they have many fat children together.
I am torn.
YOU BLOODY WELL SHOULDN'T BE.
I want to do the nuclear option (I have family that will help me relocate 2,200 miles away), because from past experience, it's the only way I've been able to truly get over someone that I love. I tried to give her 30 days notice, and she threatened my physical well being, the well being of my PC (only valuable thing I have), and then added "You're ruining any chance you have of getting back with me".
OK, man. I want you to recognise that this is coming from a place of concern and with the understanding that you're cockstruck for her. But with that being said:
WHY IN PLUPERFECT HELL ARE YOU STILL EVEN ASKING ME THIS QUESTION??
It was bad enough when she was just cheating on you and rubbing your face in it. But as soon as threats were made? You should have been out of there like all of Hell and half of Hoboken was after you. Before, you'd just be leaving a toxic as hell relationship, taken some ribbing from your friends who'd tease you with links to Offspring's Self Esteem and be well on your way. Now? This is straight up abuse.
Since then, in addition to hanging out with "C" for hours on end on a daily basis, she will come into my room, sit directly next to me (legs touching and all), lean on me, kiss my forehead, she still uses pet names with me, and goddammit I still love her.
No, you don't. OK, trust me: you do not love her. Tattoo this backwards on your forehead so you see it first thing every morning when you wake up. Shave your head if you need the room. You do not love her.
You may want her. Your balls may ache at the smell of her hair, but you don't love her. She is pulling a very classic abuser's game. Now that she's made the threats, she's love-bombing you, giving you juuuuust enough hope to keep you around and under her thumb. She wants you off balance and uncertain because then she can use the potential of draining your balls as a way of keeping you there. And when you piss her off again -- or threaten to leave -- out come the threats. Again.
I know this isn't a healthy situation,
OH YOU THINK?!
and having talked with some of her former partners, this seems to be a pattern. She sells the whole "you're the most important person on Earth to me", then lets "C" back in her life, then drops them for him, then he pisses her off, rinse and repeat.
But she had never brought up marriage with anyone else, or kids, and I find myself trapped.
Don't kid yourself, dude. She doesn't bring those things up because you're "special", she brings them up because she knows that's your weakness. This isn't a case of "sure she's messing around with this guy, but deep deep deep deep down she really loves you," this is a case of "she knows just how to play you."
And no, you're not trapped. You're choosing to stick around because you desperately want to believe that she's going to come around. Spoiler alert: SHE WON'T.
Was she just using those as extra oomph?
I want her back, and I hate myself for it, but I feel like she's just keeping me around for 1) rent and 2) she knows I'll take her back as soon as "C" pisses her off again.
And because she likes the drama. You're not her boyfriend. You're not her lover. You're a character in the little psychodrama that is her life, where she is constantly in flux, surrounded by men who want and need her and can't resist her.
GET. THE. HELL. OUT. NOW.
I've been in plenty of relationships, but I've never felt this way towards anyone. I CAN use the nuclear option, and I don't have lease terms to adhere to (month to month), but many of my friends are also hers, and I don't want to involve them. Some of them are GOOD friends of mine (although I would hope they would understand that there was a good reason for me to "disappear").
What should I do?
They Set Us Up The Drama Bomb
You know what you do, TSUUDB. You wait until she's out of the house, pack your shit and get the hell out so fast that you leave a human-shaped cloud in your wake. You don't need to move across the country, but you do need to get the ever-loving hell out of that apartment and away from that toxic hellbeast you've been living with. Stay with one of your buddies until you've got your own place or move back with your family but GET. OUT.
This is a toxic, abusive relationship and it's not going to get better. Get the hell out of it now. And in the future: work on developing and maintaining your boundaries to keep other toxic hellbeasts out of your life.
And don't sleep with your roommates.
Did you escape a toxic, abusive relationship? Did you live with a drama bomb? 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.
Top image via Shutterstock