General Dating Questions/Is this relationship right for me (us)?
QUESTION: Dear Mike,
Thanks if you take the time to read this... it's very long but honestly I just wanted to write down my thoughts, so it's okay if you don't answer :P. I'm 19 and have been dating my girlfriend for about five months now. She is my second girlfriend, but the first one that I would consider *serious*. My first was in highschool, and what basically happened is that one of my friends really wanted to date me, and I'm the kind of person who doesn't really know how to say no. I hate hurting people... in addition, I was at that point really uncomfortable with romance, felt a bit like a 12 year old on the subject, and thought that I might as well get it over with and see what it's like. I wanted a first kiss! Haha. So that only took about two months to fall apart, because obviously I didn't actually like her, didn't know how to tell her that, so pretended I did like her and just went through the motions. Not really a *real* relationship.
Anyway, unfortunately the situation with my current girlfriend started out in a pretty similar way. A good friend of mine (this time in college, we just finished our first year here) was pretty crazy about me, I didn't quite know how to say no, part of me wanted to try the dating thing again since last time worked out so poorly, and so I ended up saying yes.
At first, it went about as badly as you would expect... I was worrying the whole time that I didn't actually like her, felt often like I was just going through the motions. Can't say that there was any *spark* for me (though honestly, there hasn't been any ever! I've never been *crazy* about someone) And at the same time, I was still pretty uncomfortable with the whole dating thing! I mean going on dates can be really awkward and I can be pretty awkward at times. It's hard for me to feel comfortable with people one-on-one and that's what being in a relationship boils down to haha... it's not that I don't like people, I love hanging out with large groups of friends (and am a decent conversationalist), but being that close to just one person makes me very uncomfortable. I know I want it deep down, but it scares me too much at the same time :P
But, for some reason I never gave it up, and she never did either. And it took maybe a month or two (or three?), but eventually I actually thought that I might be in love. I don't really know what that feels like I guess... heck, I don't know what "love" means really. I know I care about her though, a LOT (too much maybe), think about her a lot, all the time, every day. Her smile DOES make my day, especially when she laughs hysterically. We do lots of fun things together like sailing and dancing (well, we're trying to learn :P), and for somebody who is rarely comfortable talking to people one-on-one I would say she is one of the people I'm most comfortable with. If anyone hears about a problem I'm having, she's usually the first, and in general talking to her helps me sort through things. And as of a month and a half ago, we started having sex, which is going relatively well. I'm having fun at any rate, haha :P
But at the same time, a lot of the relationship leaves me uncomfortable, scared, etc. I'm learning a lot more about all the different sides of her, and sometimes she acts like a completely different person. I feel like I don't even know her sometimes, and I think I don't like a lot of those parts of her...! It's pretty scary. And we don't always work harmoniously... we never have huge fights or anything, but a lot of times I feel like we didn't communicate something well, or there was something important I needed her to understand and we just couldn't get it across, etc. We don't really *synch* a lot of the time. She isn't *perfect* for me I think in that sense.
And I just don't know; is this because the relationship needs work? Communication and trust are skills and I don't think it always just comes naturally between people. Or is it because the relationship isn't meant to be? Just because we don't synch 100% perfectly doesn't mean we can't love each other and don't like being with each other, right?
So it boils down to that. If you asked me "do you love her", and without thinking I would answer, I would say "I don't know". But if you asked me "do you want to break up with her", the answer would be a flat No. Am I just staying in this because I'm afraid to break up with her, or is this a good relationship that is worth it if I just stick with it?
ANSWER: Hi Nick,
Ah yes. Being young and in college. I do remember those days as they were not too long ago for me, well, only a decade! In any case, I first want to start out by saying that what you are experiencing right now is ďnormalĒ and many people your age go through this at exactly the same time you do. When youíre in your late teens and early twenties, this period should be viewed as strictly an exploratory phase where you feel people out, find out what your likes and dislikes are in women and relationships, and just try to have fun and enjoy yourself as much as possible. I stress the enjoyment factor as odds are you will not end up with this girl in the long run. That is not meant to sound harsh, but letís face it, sheís only your second relationship, and I certainly donít expect it to be your last. That fact right there should take a lot of the pressure off you in this current relationship. You are asking some very good questions, albeit a little ahead of your time. These questions you have with regard to communication, trust, etc. are skills as you said that are developed over time going through multiple relationships. You will not get ALL the answers you are searching for out of this one relationship, and youíre not supposed to. Again, this is a time to put yourself out there a bit beyond your current comfort level and figure out what makes you tick (in life and relationships). There is no magic formula I can provide for you to accomplish this as everyone has their own journey and everyone learns and acquires skills differently and at different rates.
With that said, I do have a few pieces of advice going forward. The first is in regards to being able to say NO. This is an EXTREMELY important skill to master as you get older and develop into a man. Being able to say NO and hear NO are invaluable life skills as a man. The reason for this is that people (including women) will respect you more when you can say NO to them. This applies to love and business. You say you donít want to say NO because youíre afraid of hurting the other personís feelings. The reality, however, says that by not saying no when you should, you actually are not only causing more ďhurtĒ to that other person in the long run, but you are also ďhurtingĒ yourself by wasting time and energy where it could be used elsewhere for better purposes. In both of the dating situations you mentioned above, your gut was telling you to say no but rather than listen to your gut feeling, you went against that intuition and now you find yourself in these odd situations that you donít know how to deal with. You see, the reason your gut was telling you to say no is that it was trying to save you from all this hassle and wasted energy. ALWAYS listen to your gut instinct in life and especially in dating. Your gut is like your guardian angel. Itís here to protect you and your best interests. Your head and your heart can be fooled, but your gut remains objective in all situations. Remember this!
The other piece of advice Iíd like to add is with regard to your discomfort in being close with people on a one-on-one basis. When something in your life like this is very uncomfortable, there is a lot of growth that lies with discovering the reasons underlying the discomfort and eventually with time overcoming that fear/discomfort. I would suggest you seek some type of counseling or inner work on that discomfort because if you donít do it sooner rather than later, it will come back to haunt you later in life. The sooner an issue such as this is dealt with, the better! I know they have free or low cost counseling services for students at most colleges, and I would encourage you to talk with someone regarding this issue as I really feel it will help your life immensely.
I realize I have not focused too much on your actual question regarding your current relationship. That was intentional because when girls are in their late teens to early twenties, bounce around from relationship to relationship. Their likes, dislikes, and feelings bounce all over the place. You are likely witnessing this behavior now with your current girlfriend when you say you feel like you donít even know her sometimes. The point is to focus on yourself right now, let the girls come and go until you are ready to fully commit to a relationship because you are coming from a solid foundation of knowing yourself. I hope this helps. I wish you the best and have fun in college!
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QUESTION: Thanks a lot for answering so promptly...!
You're not the first person to tell me I should see a shrink. It's kind of funny because I really never thought about doing that, I mean sure I'm not 100% happy, but nobody is. I really don't know if I have a problem, or at least one that would warrant seeing a counselor. I mean sure I feel like I'm awkward and probably have some sort of trust issues, but I think everybody does to some extent, and that's just something you grow out of over time, right? It has so far for me (use to be MUCH worse haha).
But, now that you're mentioned it, of all the times I think about her throughout the day (which is pretty often), only about 10% of them are positive things, laughing about something she said or, well, being happy thinking about her. Mostly I just worry about something she said or about the way she acted or being nervous that we're going to hang out later, not really brooding but kind of just stressing out. Lots of nervous thoughts. 90% vs 10% is a pretty low ratio I guess haha.
Do you think it's worth seeing counseling for though? I mean everyone has problems, I don't think I have a condition or anything that would require a psychologist.
Do you really think it's worth
When you say it like that (ďsee a shrinkĒ), it puts a rather negative connotation on seeking help. You do not have to be severely mentally ill to seek counseling. Perfectly normal and healthy people go to counselors all the time to assure they are being the most effective and well-balanced people they can be. So donít think of it as a negative because it truly is not. I believe this attitude that men are supposed to just ďfigure it outĒ on their own is BS. What a good counselor will do is help you determine for yourself what is holding you back, then empower you to empower yourself toward a positive change.
You donít need to go to counseling for your current relationship. That I believe would be a waste of your time since you are not truly vested in this relationship, and as I said previously, it should be treated as a learning lesson more than anything else. What I would recommend you go see a counselor for is the deep discomfort you feel when in one-on-one situations with people. True it may resolve itself over time, but why not get it resolved sooner rather than later? And with some professional guidance? Iím not talking about a psychologist or psychiatrist here, unless you want to be told that youíre depressed and need medication, lol. I donít think you need either of those things. What Iím talking about here is just a counselor, like a Social Worker or MFT (Marriage and Family Therapist). They take a much more general and light approach to therapy.
In the end, the choice is yours but donít make the decision based on what society says you should do as a man or thinking that if you do go to counseling, it is somehow a negative thing. You are more powerful when you can admit you need some help resolving something in your life. I wish you all the best into the future my friend.