Hello all you fiery sex-buckets, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column to pivot entirely to Fortnite.
This week, we’re tackling the thorny questions of what to do when relationships don’t go the way you hope or expect. What do you do when you’re divorced… but still very much in love? What about when you have a crush on someone but you wish you didn’t? How do you get a second chance at a failed relationship?
Hop on the Battle Bus and get ready to bail out. Let’s do this.
My question is a… little different…
I don’t want to pursue the object of my affections. Heck, I don’t want to have affections for him!
I have a crush, or maybe an infatuation, or maybe a case of the “A cute man is being nice to me!” Regardless of what it is, I want it gone! This person is my friend. That’s what I want right now. They may be my type, BUT there are so so many reasons why I shouldn’t even think about it!
I’m very much not ready for a relationship. I know it. He knows it. My therapist knows it (and has outright said so to me). So yeah, NOT HAPPENING! I also am making the assumption that he isn’t either, having ended a five-year relationship about a year ago, but that is neither here nor there.
On top of that, we met online… maybe two months ago? We’re also from the opposite ends of the country. So I have literally no logical reason to be interested in him!
But no, my stupid brain/heart/what have you is like “I WANT THE CUTE GUY TO LIKE ME!” And I’m here like “Can you stop? I just want a friend I have a lot in common with who understands my experience. I did not sign up for feelings?”
So my question is this: How do I get over him? I want to get over him and just be friends with him. That’s it. That’s what I signed up for. That’s what he signed up for. Neither of us signed up for my stupid feelings. I don’t need this right now!
What do I do, Doc?
Crushed by a Crush!
You have what’s pretty much the definition of a non-problem here, CbC. The only thing you need to do is… nothing.
One of the common mistakes that people make around crushes is that we assume that they mean anything. A crush is just a temporary attraction to somebody. It’s a little burst of excitement that comes from being into somebody, the thrill of limerence that reminds us of the early days of a relationship. That inability to get someone off our minds, the way that our heart pounds at the thought of them… it’s exciting! It’s intoxicating! In its way, it’s like being young again, with the innocent expectations of our first relationship and none of the emotional scar tissue that comes with experience.
But crushes are temporary. No matter how intense they may feel at the time, they don’t last. Sometimes they last a week. Sometimes they last a month. But they always, always fade. Especially if you don’t do anything to stoke the flames.
Spending a lot of time, say, thinking about a relationship with your crush or daydreaming about how you might act on your attraction prolongs things. You’re actively engaging with those feels and trying to make the most out of them. By focusing on how you feel and what you should do about it, you’re bringing that attraction to the front of your mind, where you can’t not pay attention to it.
But trying to force those feels away does the exact same thing. Trying to force yourself to not feel something is a fool’s errand. All that happens is you spend a lot of your time and mental bandwidth trying to tamp everything down. So not only is it still at the forefront of your mind, but all you’ve done is put the contents under pressure, because emotions don’t squeeze into a convenient little ball.
All that happens is that they start to leak out through the cracks, leaving you even more aware of those feelings. And the more you try to patch those cracks and push your feelings down, the more you guarantee that it’s all going to burst out messily and all over the place.
So instead, you just need to do nothing. Don’t try to not feel them. Don’t worry about them. Don’t think about what to do with them. Just let them be. When you feel those giddy feelings start to bubble up, note them and name them — “oh, right, that’s my crush on wozizname” — then let them just flow over you and around you and past you without touching you.
Over time, the crush will fade on its own and you can go on just being friends with this guy like nothing happened.
On New Year’s Eve, my wife of nearly 10 years asked for a divorce. The reasons are complex and did not arise from an apparent offence on my part like infidelity (basically, she felt we grew apart). The papers are finalised and I’ve moved into a new apartment (and, here’s my Geek Cred – my first act as a new bachelor was to buy a Playstation 4).
We have two young kids who we are committed to raising jointly (for example, I am with them every day for family dinner), and our relationship is more or less congenial and caring (we haven’t had one argument). But, this is where it gets confusing. Nothing has basically changed. We still text throughout the day. We still talk and laugh together. We still discuss our problems at work and work through issues together. We even still make love.
Granted, the divorce is very new to us and a transition is understandable – but, does this sound like a typical divorce situation to you? My ex-wife seems to rely on me as she always had. And, while a part of me wants to be angry and move away from her as much as possible, I care too much for her to create conflict where it does not need to be.
The truth, Doc, is that I remain very much in love with her and hope that this continued “normalcy” will lead to a reconciliation in our marriage–if not now, then maybe a year down the line. It’s true that we grew apart in ways and our relationship has changed–it’s to be expected after two kids and stressful careers. And while the “sparks” may no longer remain – the trust and care we’ve developed for each other is the very definition of love. As the Fiddler on The Roof song goes: If that’s not Love, what is?
However, I don’t want to be hurt by false hope. It’s too early for me to date, but I am working to envision a life without her–thinking about the different women I may meet, the new experiences I may have, etc. But, as of today, there is still an emptiness in my heart.
What do you think? Are we handling this divorce properly and do you think our marriage can find new life?
— A Fiddler
If we’re going to quote song lyrics at one another, Fiddler, then let me throw one back to you: “sometimes love just ain’t enough.”
The truth is that every relationship ends until one doesn’t… and you never know which one that will be. But relationships end for many, many reasons, not just because somebody did something unforgivable. Nor do they end because there’s something inherently wrong, either with the couple or the relationship itself. Relationships are gestalt entities, formed out of two (or more) people coming together like a fleshy Voltron to create a separate being that’s greater than the sum of its parts. They live, grow and change, just as the people in those relationships grow and change. And sometimes the people grow and change to the point that they outgrow the relationship. That’s nobody’s fault; it just means that this relationship came to the end of its natural life.
It’s like I’m always saying: Not every love story is meant to be an epic poem. Some love stories are just meant to be a short story. Some are just meant to be a dirty limerick.
The fact that you’re getting divorced doesn’t mean that you don’t love one another. The things that drew you together are still there. The comfort and affection and respect you feel for one another still exist. It’s just that the things that made you work as a couple aren’t in effect any more. You may still be attracted to each other, you may still work great as co-parents… but not as two parts of a whole.
And to be perfectly honest, I think you’re holding on to false hope here. While it’s not impossible that the two of you could get back together, I think it’s going to be vanishingly unlikely. The problem is that the two of you grew apart; unless that changes—and you can’t force that to happen—then at best, you’ll have a shorter, unhappy rerun of the same conflicts that broke you up in the first place.
It’s great that you two still get along, that you still talk and that you work as co-parents. But I think you should stop sleeping together and develop some firmer boundaries. In other couples or other circumstances it might not be a problem. But in your case, specifically, it’s leaving you confused and blurring lines that could cause problems in the future, especially if your ex-wife decides to start dating again before you do.
While I don’t think you need to start treating her like the Evil Witch As What Broke Your Heart, I do think you need to separate yourself some from the way you’ve been playing house. Otherwise, you’re just delaying your own growth and healing and setting yourself up for extra heartbreak in the future.
I went on a lot of really solid dates with this girl and we really seemed to have a connection. We talked several times a day for over a month, exchanging and screenshotting each other’s selfies, and had some deep conversations about our lives and what we wanted out of them. On our first date we went to a restaurant and ended up talking for 4 hours and didn’t realise we’d done it until the restaurant was closed. We’ve been having a blast.
That being said, she broke things off with me yesterday, saying she’s overwhelmed with her new job and some personal issues she’s been to counseling for recently, and she just doesn’t think she can handle having a romantic relationship now and couldn’t be as engaged with me as she wants to be.
I’ve heard similar things before, we all have, but she does seem to be genuinely really into me and sad about it. I told her that I totally understood, but that if she changes her mind or feels like she’s in a better position then she has my number and not to hesitate to reach out to me. She said she would.
I feel like I handled it well and left things on a good positive note (even though it has severely disappointed me and it was tough) where we might be able to pick things back up.
She’s a really good girl and I don’t want to give up on it. Not yet at least. I’m not going to contact her and I’m going to give her the space she needs and see what happens.
I’m going to keep on dating just like before. I’m not going to wait by my phone for a message every day, but in my experience a connection like this doesn’t come very often. If I can salvage this I’d really like to, so is there anything I should do besides leave this on the backburner?
If I don’t hear from her in like a month or two should I try to re-engage with her? Maybe just send her a short message or a meme and see if it picks up from there? If it’s any longer than that should I just forget about it?
I guess I’m looking for a roadmap of sorts here for keeping this option open. I feel a lot of uncertainty right now.
Lost on the Back Roads of Love
There’s really not much to be done here, LBRL. She made it clear that she’s not in a place where she feels like she can date anyone and you in particular. That’s pretty much out of your hands, even if she’s being 100% truthful with you.
But the thing you need to consider is that this may not be the whole truth. Not that she’s lying — not about liking you, or about her life being in a place where she can’t really date — but that she will try to pick things back up when and if everything changes.
While it’s likely true that she’s overwhelmed by work and personal issues, it could also be true that while she likes you, she doesn’t want to continue a relationship with you. Having these other issues just makes it easier to soften the blow; it’s just bad luck, the right person at the wrong time, etc.
It’s certainly possible that, when circumstances change, she’ll circle around and the two of you can pick back up where you left off. But I wouldn’t count on that, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to try to stay at the forefront of her mind. Right now, the best thing you can do is follow her lead and take her behaviour as a sign of how she means to go on. If she stays in touch—sending the occasional “what’s up” text or meme—then by all means, keep the conversation going.
But if she goes radio silent… well, the only real choice you have is to just take that as a message. She knows you’re still interested in her and she knows how to reach you if she wants to see you again. The ball’s in her court. She’ll let you know if she’s ready to date again.
It’s OK to hope, but you should move forward as though you know she isn’t coming back. Let yourself mourn the break-up and find someone new. Because I promise you: as awesome as she is, there are many, many other women out there who are just as awesome, if not more so. And they’re going to be in the right place to date you, right now.
Did you have an inconvenient crush? Did you and your partner still love each other, even after the break-up? Share your story in the comments below and 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.