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Hello all you pervert people of the intertubes, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating column that's set to stop Third Impact.
This week, we're asking people to look deep within themselves. When your ex gets back in touch after years of silence, is this a good time to confront them about everything they did to you? Is it possible to get closure, and should you even try?
Another reader wants to know: he's achieved financial success, but not social success. Can he parley money into love, or is that just going to lead to his getting lost in a dirac sea of gold-diggers and fake friends?
Get in the fucking robot, Shinji. It's time to do this thing.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I'm beyond lost on what to feel and do about a relationship I had (or rather, imploded on its own...) ended about a year and a half ago that had went on for almost 3 years.
I am a 28 year old woman and the guy I dated, (I will just refer to him as 'Brad') is 30 years old. Not that age really has much to do with maturity necessarily, but I always felt it at least some merit or milestone of when people get their 'ah ha!' moment of when it comes to human decency.....
Just a bit of a backstory first — I was in another relationship I was in that ended horribly; my father died and the guy left me the same week knowing my father died, also his family would relentlessly harass me all the time. It all spiraled out of control and left me a in terrible depression and I spent more time trying to numb myself through various means rather than deal with things.
Well, 2 years later good ol' Brad comes along. I met him at our job and he came off as someone who was really sweet and didn't see the obvious misery and pain on the outside, he seemed more interested in what was inside. It also felt nice to have someone come along and give me attention again that I thought I would never have again. It felt liberating and I felt for the first time in a long time that I was desirable again and things didn't hurt as bad. I even stopped drinking and doing drugs.
After 3 weeks of exclusively dating, he told me he loved me. I never said it back at first but I felt very uneasy and a little taken back by it. Most people would think, "HOLY SHIT, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" and I should have but again, it felt nice to be wanted hear those words from another human being. Then a month later he purposed the idea that we should get a place together — I flat out told him no and that I wasn't ready for that.
After a year together he started to get very jealous of any male friends I had. If I even spoke to them around him and after said friend would leave, Brad would accuse me of having feelings for them and start trying to put into my head that they put their arm around me or tried to kiss me. It got so absurd that I told him it's in his head and I know damn well know what happens to me and what goes on in my personal space — not him. Brad would lean into my face and say, "Excuse me?" I never pushed it further than that, I didn't want to fight and I felt there was more important things to fight over than whatever he wants to believe.
Another year passes and he starts to nag me harder about us living together. I KNEW that he didn't want to live with me because he cared about me, he wanted a financial break. Then the whole him wanting to live together after a few months of dating crept back into my mind. I couldn't ever shake the feeling he was just using me for money and sex, and now a place to live. I tried to rationalize it as just me being an arsehole and assuming the worst of people. I thought it was me, not him being a shit head.
Brad eventually proposed to me and I accepted for only one reason; I wanted to show my ex I can get engaged too and find 'happiness' without him. A month before that, I found out my ex had gotten married and it was like being wounded all over again...Yes, it was a very stupid thing to do and yes, THAT makes me a shithead. So I caved and let Brad move into my place and that's when the REAL crazy started.
For 6 months, I dealt with Brad going through my phone, looking over my shoulder at who I was talking to on Facebook, hearing his ridiculous accusations of me cheating on him, then I come to find out he was trash talking me to every female coworker we had. Saying I was 'the overly jealous type' that I 'was horrible to him and always mocked his dreams.' I even discovered that he was talking to an ex girlfriend of his in a way that isn't platonic. I didn't mind that they were, I trust him so I couldn't understand why he couldn't trust me? I called him out on it and he flipped shit saying he was leaving, moving out, etc. Later that night he came home from work and he changed his tune. How 'sorry he was' and 'he still cares about me' etc. However, he had the nerve to tell that I needed to 'get in shape' and 'lose some weight.' I was hurt by this but again, I tread upon the high road.
2 months later, I FINALLY realised that I wasn't being the arsehole. I found out Brad was cheating on me with a coworker AND friend of mine. I was so depressed and disgusted with him, I didn't even want to be in the same room with him. When I found out, I wasn't angry, I was thankful that I finally found a way out without being a jerk and breaking up with him or at least in manner that he can't twist it into me being 'terrible to him' again.
I confronted him and he completely lost it — it turned into, "I'm at work, if you break my things, there will be hell to pay!" and "you hacked me! that's a computer crime!", "I'm calling the cops!", "I am going to destroy you." When his tirade was over I told him that I would give him 30 days to find somewhere else to live, despite everything he did. Brad screamed, 'FINE! I'LL JUST MOVE OUT THEN!' and hangs up. Then he texts me, 'Can I stay until January?' After the last outburst, after all the frustration and pain he caused me, I finally stood up for myself and said, "No, get the fuck out tonight."
I don't think that he ever had any intention of moving out. He didn't think I would stand up for myself and actually kick him out. The next day, Brad texted me this nonsense about him getting fired from work. I asked him why was he was fired, he only said, 'I guess they don't want this trouble at the workplace.' I told him that it isn't grounds to fire someone because it's personal and outside of the job. Then all he said after was, 'Should I choose to stay and fight my termination?' I never responded. The next day at work I saw him there working — another lie, and I wasn't surprised.
7 months went on and Brad fell off the rails even further, he started sexually harassing women we worked with after he heard a rumour I was dating someone else. He moved back in with his old roommate and even made a sexual advance on his roommate's girlfriend. Not long after that, he was caught trying to kiss and possibly rape the girlfriend's little sister, who was 14 at the time. Brad did this whole pity party after he was caught and started messaging people on Facebook, texting, and calls to everyone he knew that he was saying goodbye and he was going to kill himself. He texted me saying, "I'm sorry for everything. I hope you find that someone. I have to go now."
When I got out of work, the cops were at my house looking for him, at the job looking for him, and even 10 hours later, were calling my phone nonstop. Brad ended up fleeing the state and returning to where he was from.
Months later I did meet someone else and he was wonderful. Brad I guess saw this on Facebook and started sending me messages of, 'I told you I was sorry and I was an arsehole for what I pulled before I left the state and I'm happy for you that you moved on but don't talk trash about my girlfriend, I don't say anything about your guy so leave her out of it.' I literally have no idea who he was talking about.
In between these messages, he would block me on Facebook just to unblock me at random. After I broke up with my new guy I got another message from Brad saying, "All I can say at this point is that I am sorry for everything that had happened and I'll be coming to visit (state I live in) when I get the time. I'm not looking for anything, all that died with her."
I don't know who is 'her' is but I don't care to know. I just feel it was him getting jealous the first time and when he saw and I was single again, he started playing the nice guy. I know it's a head game and I know he's fucked up but at the same time, I want to hear what he has to say. Not out of forgiveness necessarily but maybe I can say somethings that I was bottling up for the longest time as well. Closure I guess? Maybe I want him to feel hurt and feel dejected as I once felt by his hand. Maybe I am fucked up just as much as he is....?
Anywho, after all that, my question to you Doc is this: Should I react to him whatsoever? Should I try to seek closure on a crappy situation? It's been bothering me ever since I kicked him out of my life. After all that he did and what he did to our mutual friend's little sister, I want him to know that there is no place for him in my life and that he is an animal. I would block him on all social media but up until this point I always chose to never acknowledge him. Blocking him or barring him in anyway is a form of acknowledgement in my opinion. I took the highroad so many times when it came to him and I that I'm now at a point where I want him to suffer for all the ugly he caused and the mistreatment of nearly all the people that were in his life.
Better But Bitter
Have to say, BBB, it's not often that I get a letter that hits the Lifetime Original Movie levels of drama, so cheers for that. That was quite the journey.
So: I totally get why you want to lash out at this guy. He's put you through hell, he put your friend's sister through even worse and now he's got the balls to start pulling weird shit with you again. It's only natural that you want to come down on him with all the righteous anger of a thousand pissed off angels and a Shondra Rhimes heroine. He abused you, he gaslit you, he tried to rape a 14 year old and now he's trying to pull his headgame bullshit again? Of course it feels like the only reasonable answer is unleash such fury that all that will be left is a pale, snakelike mockery of life crying "I wassss a maaaaaan." People will tell cautionary tales for generations about how thoroughly he was ruined.
And I'm going to tell you to put it all aside. Not because he doesn't deserve it — he does — and not because you should take the high-road — you shouldn't. I'm going to tell you to put it all aside because there's no point to it.
To start with, this is what he wants. You said it yourself: he's trying to bait you into a response. Any reaction at all is going to be positive reinforcement. Even if you unleash a torrent of fire like a spirit of vengeance, all that will happen is that he'll see that he can get a reaction out of you. Like a pushy salesman, opening the door even a crack is going to give him an opportunity to wedge his way in.
Then there's the fact that there is literally nothing you can say that's going to make a difference. You may be fuelled by righteousness but being right doesn't counteract the fact that this guy is ten pounds of fucked up in a five pound sack. Whatever you say is going to to bounce right off the shield of self-involved bullshit he has going.
But most importantly: you're not going to get closure from this because closure doesn't exist. Not in the way you're hoping for. You don't want closure so much as validation. You want assurance that not only were you right but that he knows that you were right. And that's not going to happen. He sincerely believes he's the wronged party here. He's off in his own world and and it's running out of oxygen. You aren't going to be the person to shock him into realising how very fucking wrong he is.
What you need, more than anything else, is to let it go. Letting this eat at you, this idea that somehow you will be vindicated and he will acknowledge the rightness of your dropping him like a bad night of Tex-Mex, is just letting him take up space in your brain. It's that last little seed of what he did to you, his toe-hold in your life. It's the thing he can point to and say that you'll never really be rid of him.
The worst, most cutting thing you can do to him isn't to smite him like an angry god, it's to forget him. Excise him from your soul and your life. Condemn him to damnatio memorae. Take the nuclear option and shut him out of your life entirely. Block him on every form of social media. Delete his number, his texts, his emails and his photos. Remove him so thoroughly that he'll doubt his own existence and never devote a single brain cycle to him again.
The only closure you're ever going to get is the closure you give yourself. So accept that yes, you were right, he was cataclysmically wrong. And then forget him. The best revenge isn't destroying him, it's living well without him.
You know the story where the jock get all the girls in high school, but then the nerd grows up and makes more money so they switch roles? Well, I'm that nerd and I'm at the point in life where I am now making the money everyone said I would, but I'm not feeling any less lonely yet. If anything I feel like my salary is starting to become a burden because I don't know how to handle the subject when it comes to romantic interactions.
I sound like a cross section of pretty much everyone who writes you. I'm 23 and about a year out of college. I'm a little overweight, but it's the body I've always had and I'm completely comfortable in it. I'm not exactly attractive, but not unattractive either. I've only ever had a handful of dates and a couple of slightly more serious flings, but I've never been able to progress past the 1-2 month mark. So yes, that means I'm a virgin, but I'm ok with that. When it happens, it happens. I'm just trying to find someone who actually likes me for me. I've met some cool people and made some close connections, but I've never been able to say "I love you" to someone yet. I'll admit that I'm inexperienced in this area, but the few girls that were crazy enough to consider letting kiss them were all way too cute for me so I think I was doing at least something right.
Since leaving school I've relocated to a new city, so I don't have a solid friend base yet to meet people through. I've been hitting the online scene pretty hard, but no matter what everyone still judges books by their covers. And unfortunately I'm a good book with a kind of meh cover. I've been getting better at perfecting my craft, but no one wants to give me a chance. For lacking experience, I've found that I'm surprisingly good at connecting with people, but at the end of the day there's always someone else who they like just a little bit better.
So now I actually have an ace in the hole that I could use, but I don't know if or how to use it. I've been fortunate enough to arrive in job land where I found a really good job growing on a jobby. It's a pretty surreal feeling, because while most of my friends are still struggling, I'm a raise away from six figures. I'm making more than twice the combined household income I grew up in, so I'm not really used to this lifestyle yet. I actually feel pretty conflicted, because the lower middle class "Feel the Bern" attitude is pretty ingrained in my DNA, but I'm technically upper middle class now.
How would you approach the subject of money if you were in my situation? I know money changes how people see you, for better and for worse, so in general I try to steer away from talking about it at all. I'm at a pretty happy point in life across the board, but my love life is pretty non existent. I'm kind of close to the point of desperation, but I don't want someone to like me just for my money. And likewise, I don't want to come off as some douche who is just flaunting around their straight white male privilege. I know my wealth could potentially make me attractive enough for someone to finally take a chance on me, but it's a pretty giant can of worms that I really don't want to open unless absolutely I have to. When do you think it is appropriate to disclose your financial status? When can it make you attractive, and when can it hurt you? I never thought I would be in this position, and I know I'm extremely fortunate to be in it, but I have no idea what I'm doing.
The Nerd From High School Grown Up
First things first NHSGU: money doesn't make you attractive or solve your relationship issues. I can't tell you the number of people I've worked with who've ranged from the well-off to the fuck-off wealthy who can't get a date to save their lives. Money doesn't substitute for social skills or character. Money only makes you attractive to people who are attracted to money. You can throw money around and be a big-shot and you very well may attract hot women… but they're mostly going to be into what you can do for them.
What money can do is give you opportunities. If you'll pardon the seeming digression, one of the things I emphasise is what I call The Grimes Test. It goes like this:
Grimes is a kaiju. He's pretty cute as far as toxic waste monsters go. He's got a good job and a place of his own but not much of a life outside work. He's never abused a woman, creeped on her, or violated her boundaries. So what do you have going for you that Grimes doesn't that would make a woman more interested dating you instead of him?
Having financial security and disposable income means that you have the chance to do things that will make you a more interesting, datable person. You have more freedom and flexibility that a lot of other people don't. You have the chance to travel. You have the opportunities to cultivate your intellectual curiosity and explore things that interest you. You can pursue your passions and interests and generally become a more interesting, well-rounded person. That will make you far more attractive to people you would be interested in than rolling up in a Bentley.
Having the freedom to explore your interests and passions will also help you meet new and interesting people, whether you're looking for friends or potential paramours. Finding people you relate to, who have interests in kind, is the first step to making new friends.
Money also gives you the opportunity to do good, especially for others. You're in a position to make the world a little brighter and a little better for people. This is a net good overall; not only does it make the world a better place, but altruism actually makes you sexier. Men who are more altruistic are seen by women as being more desirable, especially for long-term relationships. Something to think about.
As for how you talk about money and your financial status? I'd suggest that for the most part… you don't. Not unless it's immediately relevant to the situation at hand. It's not something that you need to hide, anymore than it's something to flaunt. Most of the time it doesn't come up… and frankly most people will probably get that you're well off without your having to say it.
The only time it really becomes an issue is when your relationship gets serious and you're considering moving in together or otherwise building a life with one another. At that point, being able to communicate openly and honestly about all things financial is important. Money and the stresses it brings is one of the single greatest causes of break-ups. And trust me: the way money can cause conflicts will come in ways you won't expect. Your partner may be jealous of how you spend money, especially if you spend it on yourself but balk on things that are for the both of you. Alternately, they may feel insecure over having less and feel like they don't "fit" with you and your lifestyle if they can't keep up at the same level. They may resent it if you buy things for them past a certain point; some people hate feeling like a "kept" man or woman. Most people prefer to feel like they're earning their place and contributing as an equal.
You will want to have clearly delineated boundaries when it comes to finances and work out well in advance how your responsibilities and expectations will break down. You'll want to have a series of conversations and arrangements. If you have more money, are you OK with being willing to shoulder more of the financial end of things? If you're going to be determined to split things equally, are you willing to limit yourself to things that your partner can afford? What is reasonable to you could be significant, even ruinous to your partner.
Is there a way that your partner could contribute to the household that lets them feel equal but not leave you feeling like a sugar daddy? Are they careful to make sure to not make you feel like an ATM with legs?
And as unromantic as it may seem at the time, if you start to seriously think about marriage, then pre-nups are your friend. It may feel like you're telling your partner that you don't trust them but trust me: contracts, rules and boundaries can make for far better relationships than fights and arguments over vagueness or assumptions. The fewer fights you have to have at the end of a relationship, the smoother the process will be overall.
Did you get closure from an ex? How has having — or not having — money affected your relationships? 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.