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Hello all you wheel-eyed death lemmings, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating column that survived all four days of Emerald City Comic Con. Barely.
This week, we’re all about the hard questions. When you have a loving relationship and a new and exciting crush… which do you choose? Do you even have to choose? What about when your crush has a boyfriend? What if she’s a Twitch streamer? What do you do then?
Time to gird your loins and insert coins. Let’s do this.
I’ve been a reader for a while but have never had a reason to write you. Until now, obviously. And I’ve got a situation that I’ve never seen you deal with in the few months I have been reading.
I have been with my girlfriend for almost a year and at the risk of sounding dramatic, it has been pretty incredible. I’ve never had a relationship last this long and although we do have our differences, I am crazy about her. She doesn’t share my geeky passions but more importantly, she cares about me and supports me, as I do for her. I feel completely satisfied with our relationship: emotionally, intellectually, physically, and she tells me she feels the same way. She makes me a better person and at the same time, inspires me to work to become an even greater partner for her. While we have no serious plans for it, we have both talked about how we think marriage could be a possibility years down the line. Neither of us are eager to rush and potentially ruin this.
This is where it gets interesting. I’ll refer to my girlfriend as “Janet” from now on.
Janet and I are 22. I have recently moved to attend college, which I’m thrilled about. The issue is that Janet now lives a walloping hour and fifteen minutes away. We are both aware this is not a very great distance but since I am currently busy with school and she is occupied finishing up community college, we don’t get to see each other in person as much. It sucks but we text every day and FaceTime on a regular basis. I’ve still been able to visit Janet on a few weekends and we always enjoy ourselves. I know she gets bummed about the distance but I really don’t think it is having a serious impact on our relationship. I feel just as committed to her as I always have. If she was co-authoring this letter I am confident she would agree.
The thing is, someone else just came into my life. Someone we will call “Amy.” I met Amy a few weeks ago through a couple of school functions, clubs and shit like that, and while we haven’t spent tons of time together, we already have each other’s phone numbers and have gotten to know each other fairly well. I don’t know if Amy would agree but I feel like we are starting to develop a genuine connection. We run into each other on the way to classes all the time; Usually I say something dumb and she smiles, and her smile lingers in my mind the rest of the day. I think about Amy and her smile quite a bit.
I will admit I am physically attracted to Amy although I want to stress that I am still very enamoured with Janet. I also think it is important that none of my interactions with Amy have been flirtatious or sexual in nature. This is not the situation where the guy loses interest in one women just because he wants to sleep around. I don’t think distance is the cause of this, as I am still close to Janet and could simply visit her were I less busy with school of course.
Instead, what I feel is not a sense of loving Janet any less, it is a sense of my heart simply growing larger to include Amy. I think both women are exceptional and interesting but I don’t want this situation to grow in a way that would hurt anyone, certainly not Janet, who has immensely altered my life for the better since we started dating. I was a directionless, heartless, shell of a man before I met Janet; she is better than I ever could deserve.
I want to continue growing my relationship with my girlfriend, but I still want to explore this new connection I have. Any advice?
Confused But Loving
Woah, CBL, slow your roll for a second. You are making a whole lotta assumptions right now that can not only bite you in the arse but also set it on fire.
Let’s roll this from the top and deal with the meta-issue before we get to your problem.
As I’ve said before: monogamy ain’t for everyone. It’s not our natural state — that is, we are literally built for multiple partners and there are biological reasons why we lose desire for our partners over the long term. This doesn’t mean monogamy is good or bad, just difficult for most people. Many people prefer or need a non-monogamous relationship, which can come in many forms.
Some prefer something open, where both partners are able to have sex with other people. Some people have a lot of love to give and end up practicing polyamory — that is, having full, committed romantic relationships with more than one person.
That seems to be what you’re interested in: having a committed relationship with both Janet and Amy. If this is a relationship style that you’re going to want to pursue in the future, then I strongly suggest that you start doing your homework now. Polyamorous relationships are like dating on steroids. You’re going to be juggling two or more full relationships, which means managing your time and connection with two people. That is a hell of a lot of emotional work and varsity-level time-management skills to make sure that nobody (including you) is getting shafted.
(Incidentally: shared Google calendars are your friend here.)
So if you’re interested in polyamory, start doing your reading. I suggest Tristan Taormino’s Opening Up and More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickert. I would also suggest reading Neil Strauss’ The Truth, because he tried to make the poly-harem thing work and… yeah.
And if you want to get bonus points, I’d also suggest Esther Perel’s Mating In Captivity, which is a wonderful book about the complexities of love, attraction and sex in a long-term relationship.
So, the meta-issue: yes, you can date Janet and Amy at the same time. Theoretically. If you’re willing to do a lot of work.
Now let me beat your dreams with the Chair Leg of Truth until candy comes out.
Before that ever becomes something you should be concerning yourself with, you need to do a whole lot of talking. See, one thing I notice in your letter is you don’t actually say that you know how Janet feels about things or how Amy feels about your burgeoning relationship. You may be confident that Janet feels the same way. You may be kinda sure that Amy thinks the two of you are getting close. But something tells me that you’ve never actually talked about any of this.
Right now, you’re working on a whole lot of assumptions. And they may well be correct, but until you know for sure, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of pain. Trying to change a long-term, monogamous relationship to a poly one is tough and very well could detonate what you have with Janet. Telling your girlfriend that you love her but you also want to date other people at the same time is a goddamn hard sell. That’s some “jet-speeder level of Battletoads and also you’re blind” difficulty.
At the same time, you don’t know that a) Amy is into you and b) cool with being in a relationship with a guy who also has a girlfriend. Just as importantly, you don’t know that much about Amy. She may well be seven different kinds of awesome with a side of holy fuckballs cool but, dude, you are working on a couple weeks worth of info here. You are gearing up in your heart to potentially blow up your relationship over an infatuation. A crush.
And let’s be real: the odds are good that part of the reason why you’re so into her is that she’s present and Janet isn’t. Our junk is really into the whole “love the one you’re with” thing.
(And before anyone else suggests it: no, trying to date them both on the sly is a horrible fucking idea. That’s A) a shitty thing to do to someone you profess to care about and B) a great way to end up known on campus as the cheating arsehole who lied about having a girlfriend.)
Now, if this is something you want to pursue, then you need to do a lot of talking and a whole lot of reading. You’re going to need to start with talking to Janet; if you want a poly relationship, you better make sure your current girlfriend is cool with it before you try scooping up a second. If and only if she is explicitly in favour of the arrangement, then you can start seeing if Amy is into you and cool with the whole multiple relationships idea.
Oh and don’t forget, if Janet and Amy are polyamorous, they may want boyfriends of their own. So you better start working on being cool with that possibility too.
Like I said: this can work. But it is hellishly complicated and difficult to maintain. If it’s something you want, you’re going to have to go into it understanding that you may end up with no girlfriends. Do your reading and have several very long talks, starting with Janet.
I apologise in advance, since English isn’t my first language.
I am a guy at 29, who’s never been in a relationship or had sex. My social network is not big and I barely have any female friends. Most of them I don’t have contact with for years. And it feels almost like I get attracted to pretty much every female I encounter that talk to me.
Recently I started to hangout more on smaller Twitch streamers, one of them being a female, who just just pretty much started out. I followed her channel for around one year and 6 months, and I feel like I would like to know more about her. I know that pretty much every guy who follows female streamers pretty much gets a crush on the streamer.
What I am trying to figure out if what I feel is longing for friendship and get to know her or is it just plain lust? But the funny thing is I don’t fantasise about her like that. She is down to earth and we have some things in common. I know it is cliché.
And not only that she’s already in a relationship for 10 years and they’re moved in together in a house. Am I being selfish if I want and hope, they might breakup and I see some signs of it? I thought she maybe stuck with him because of financial issues and other stuff.
I read your article about dating a Twitch streamer and I don’t fit into the profile of the first article, since what I would like is not superficially like getting laid but being a true SO.
Now here is another dilemma. I am a kind of person who likes to help others and have done so a lot. Is this just the same case that I am trying to help a wounded deer, even though she might not even need to get “rescued”? I don’t want to ruin the community I am a part of either. And I think I somehow managed to change her perspective of me by being annoyance and I was also interacting and talking in chat while being depressed, which caused her to be colder to me.
I remedied this by sending her this text message:
“I just wanted to say that I am sorry for being rude, annoying and bad generally behaviour. I know I have been an arsehole. What I wanted to express before about being depressed etc, was something I genuinely wanted to express to you. But I gave up halfway when you didn’t respond the way I expected and responded like an emo. I’ve been fooling around too much and expressed my words/feelings etc not properly.
I cherish the community and your playing games and streaming, that’s the reason I’ve been overly spending time here. I’ve had as you said before that I should not be wasting my time making memes etc, I must say that I don’t even recognise myself when I observed myself. Internet and chat really does not justify who I am. But that does not excuse it either. And again I apologise greatly. I think I might be overthinking this, but I do all the time, I am an introvert. I English can.”
She then replied: “That’s alright, I understand, it happens. I appreciate the message though :blush:”
But I still feel like she is giving me cold shoulder or rather, not as humble and genuine greeting. I also feel slightly jealous how she greets other people, which I assume is a warning sign. I am generally very self aware and when I make a bad or selfish action that might hurt others I step back. I try to be as honest as possible, I also don’t like doing false greeting or show false joy, or pretend that I like someone etc.
I can assume she probably guessed or figured out somehow that I have a “crush” on her. and the fact that she is distancing herself from me, since I am another one of “those guys”.
And I also don’t want to confuse her since she is already in a relationship. Is this way too farfetched? This my second time feeling like this the first time was when I was around 15-16, and I must say I hate feeling like this. I can’t seem to cope with my feelings properly. I also don’t seem like be able to portray my true self to others.
I’ve also recently suffered deep depression, because of some ADD medicine, but also because of my core personality not expressing my true feelings no matter what it is and have usually solved problems by doing it observantly and logically.
Now I wonder should I do something about this? I mean I am not sure anymore. I feel like I should express that I would like to talk to her more and chit chat about all kinds of stuff and see if my feelings are what I think they are.
I really would appreciate the help, I’ve had enough of feeling and living these things. I must move on properly.
-Lost and Confused Soul
Dude, I feel for you. You’re feeling lonely and confused and there’s this person who you feel incredibly close to. And now you have these feelings coursing on top of depression and inexperience and you don’t know what to do with them. It’s a motherfucker and I totally get it.
But here’s the thing: I think the column you reference — the guy whose girlfriend is a Twitch streamer — is actually the wrong one, if you want some perspective on this. The one that applies here is the one I wrote for a guy who fell for a cam girl.
See, like him, you are in a very one-sided relationship. She is performing for an audience. You are the audience. That’s it. It’s very easy to feel this sense of intimacy and connection with the people you see or hear regularly, whether it’s podcasters, Twitch streamers, YouTubers, or actors in TV shows, but that’s not real. You don’t actually know them. You see a very small performative slice of of them.
Streaming is as much about the performance as it is about the games they stream, and part of that performance is to be appealing and approachable to their audience. Like a cam-girl, Twitch streamers interact with their audience to help keep them watching. They may very well have regulars they like and appreciate but that is not the same as having a relationship.
To answer your questions: Yeah, it’s pretty selfish to hope that she’s about to break up with her boyfriend of ten years, and it’s honestly kinda creepy to hope that you’ll be able to slip in while the metaphorical window is open. No, you’re not going to date her, and yes, she’s probably being colder to you because she doesn’t want to encourage your crush.
Let’s take that response she sent you. That’s a polite brush-off. She’s being as gentle about it as she can — after all, there’s a long history of women getting shit for saying “no”, even when it’s just online — but she’s giving you the bare minimum of a response without actively being rude. She’s maintaining a distance because, well, you’re starting to blur the line between audience/creator and people-in a relationship.
I have a lot of sympathy dude, because you’re lonely and you’ve got some heavy shit going on that’s doing a number on your brain. That whole “trying to help others” bit you have is basically White Knight Syndrome — you are hoping that by “saving” her (whom you admit doesn’t need saving) that you will somehow “earn” her affection in return. It’s needy behaviour, and it’s pretty unattractive at best.
Even if this wasn’t a one-sided relationship, that sort of co-dependency is toxic for everyone involved. It’s a relationship predicated on obligation — I did X, Y and Z for you, now you owe me — and that makes everyone miserable.
You sound like you have some self-esteem issues on top of your depression and ADD, which would help explain why you’re pursuing a relationship you know to be impossible and why you equate “rescuing” people with winning their favour. The best thing you can do for yourself is get your head straight. Getting your depression under control should be your first priority.
I can tell you from dealing with it myself: depression is a motherfucker. It will tell you the worst things about yourself and you will believe it because it talks to you in your own voice.
Hopefully, you’re already getting help beyond just some meds. The meds help get shit under control, but actual therapy is an invaluable way to learn how to recognise reality vs. when your depression is sucking the life out of you. I strongly suggest you go talk to a counselor about all of this, especially someone who specialises in depression and self-worth.
They’re best equipped to not just help you talk through some of your feelings but to give you the tools and skills to navigate interpersonal relationships, not to mention how to recognise a crush on a celebrity vs. an actual relationship with another person.
And lastly, I’d take a few steps back from this particular streamer. Sticking around is only going to end up hurting you more. It’s impossible to let a wound heal if you’re constantly picking at a scab. Some distance will help you get the perspective to recognise that you’re letting your desire for friends turn a pastime into something more than it can ever be.
Good luck, LACS. And write back to let us know how you’re doing.
Did you turn a monogamous relationship into a poly one? Did you try to go from fan to partner with someone you admire? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. And meanwhile, we’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write [email protected] and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.
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. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.