Ask Dr. NerdLove: When Is It Time To Break Up?

Dear Dr. NerdLove:

My boyfriend and I have been together for 2.5 years now and we are best friends, but we’ve had our rough patches. I cheated on him in the beginning with my ex, and we’ve worked past it and all is well. Again we’ve had rough patches, but we also live together so I feel like it’s bound to happen. He goes away every summer for work, and when i went to go visit him, I found out he had been sexting another guy he met at a bar. This threw me by surprise because he’s not the type of person to cheat and especially with a guy. They only sexted for about an hour and he was drunk, but he did start it all. He was very apologetic when he found out and he’s a genuinely great guy besides all that.

Anyway, this entire summer I’ve been extremely horny and I want to sleep with other men, more than anything. The sex between me and my boyfriend is okay, not really that special. Kinda boring. And I feel like after finding that on his phone, I am kind of thinking about breaking up and sleeping with other people, but we live together, we have a cat, we have a great home. If we broke up, I would lose all of it. I’m not sure what to do. I feel so trapped and i don’t really have any money (I’m a student and work a min wage job) and I am also scared that he may be the only person who will treat me right.


Is It Really Over

Let’s start with the obvious, IIRO: in all likelihood, one of the reasons why your sex-life is just “ok” because it seems like your boyfriend has some needs and interests that aren’t getting met. It could well be that he’s bi or pansexual, or it could be that he met one guy who just flipped his switch. It could be something that’s been part of him for as long as you two have been together, or it could be something he’s only just discovered.

And trust me: the only thing the alcohol did was make it possible for your boyfriend to act on those interests. Alcohol doesn’t suddenly make you decide you’re into dudes, it just turns up the volume on the part of your brain that that says “hey, that guy looks hot…” which then turns into “you know, a blowjob would be nice tonight.”

However, I’m curious as to just why you’re suddenly ready to pull the plug on your relationship after having seen his sexts on his phone. The fact that he’s sexting someone else is justifiably upsetting… but honestly, this sounds less like you feel betrayed and more that you’re looking for an excuse to pull end things. And honestly, I suspect the issue is that you’re bored.

Now let’s talk a little about your wandering eye. You’re feeling the urge to get some strange; that’s perfectly normal. That’s part of being a primate with a libido. We are novelty-seeking creatures, and that includes who we sleep with. That, in and of itself, doesn’t say anything about the state of your relationship.

But boredom with your sex life does.

Sexual compatibility and sexual satisfaction is a crucial part of making a relationship work. It’s very easy to say that “a relationship is about more than sex” but the truth of the matter is, if the sex isn’t working then the relationship is heading to it’s inevitable collapse.

The big question here is whether this is a case of the spark fading over time – as it does in all relationships – or if it’s because your boyfriend needs things that you can’t give him. If it’s just boredom, there are many things you can do to reignite the spark and make sex hot again. But that’s if you want to actually fix things. If it’s the case that he’s been closing his eyes and picturing Michael B. Jordan while the two of you are together… well, he’s not exactly going to be motivated to be putting in more than a token effort into your sex life.

You and your boyfriend need to sit down and have a long and likely awkward conversation about the state of your relationship. There is a lot to talk about: your mutual satisfaction, his apparent attraction to other men and where you’re going from here. You have many different options besides breaking up and staying together – including potentially transitioning into a non-monogamous commitment.

But that’s assuming that staying together is the right choice for the two of you.

I get that you don’t necessarily want to give up the things that come with your relationship – the house, the cat, etc. – but those are bad reasons to stay in a relationship that isn’t working. Sticking in a relationship for the side-benefits is a great recipe to curdle the respect and affection you have for your partner and turn what might otherwise be a successful relationship into one of bitterness and rancor.

And believe me: he’s not the only guy out there, nor is he the only one who will treat you well. To steal a line from Tim Minchin:

“Your love is one in a million
You couldn’t buy it at any price
But of the nine-point-nine-nine-nine-hundred-thousand other possible loves
Statistically, some of them would be equally nice”

But you won’t know what the right choice is until the two of you talk it out.

Good luck.

Hey Doc,
I know you err more towards behavior and mindset stuff, but I’m going to ask this question anyway.

I’ve been trying to eliminate some creepy/off-putting aspects of myself, one of which is my facial expressions. I’ve been told a bunch of times that my neutral expression and my ‘my knuckles are itching, and your face looks like a scratching post’ face are one and the same. That’s problematic enough, but I also suck at smiling. You know how a lot of people can ‘idle smile’, sort of smiling unconsciously? I’m not one of them. My picture smile feels unnatural, and every time I’ve tried to practice smiling, I’ve gotten one of three results: 1. The ‘Private Pyle after he snapped’ psychotic smile. 2. The ‘Bugs Bunny right before he drops an anvil on Yosemite Sam’ smirk. 3. A repeat of my super-fake picture smile.

So, do you have any tips or exercises to make my smiles more ‘hey, I’m cool and getting to know me would be a fun thing for the both of us’ and less ‘I want to eat your liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti’?

Grim Grinning Ghost

Hey, some folks have resting bitch face, GGG. I’m one of them; when I’m concentrating on something, I look like I’m contemplating how easy it would be to turn someone’s face inside out. But the way you fix that isn’t to learn how to plaster a fake smile on your face and call it a day. All that does is make you look even more sinister. Even people who don’t know how to recognize a fake smile will feel uncomfortable without knowing why.

You have a natural smile; you’re just bad at bringing it forward at will.  What you need to do is make yourself feel like smiling.

After all, I’m assuming you do smile at times. The number of people who are Stoneface McGee 24/7 is very very low.

What you need to do is work less on your face and more on your emotional state. When you’re in a good mood or feel amused, it radiates through your being. Your body language changes, your facial expressions soften and you start to look friendlier and more open. So when you need to look friendlier and radiate that warmth that makes you more charismatic, think of the things that make you smile. Mentally play your favorite Looney Tunes cartoons, silly songs or Robin Williams routines – the things that make you smile and laugh. And as you do, let those good feelings spread through your body and start to show on your face. Other people don’t need to know you’re mentally singing “I’m About To Whip Somebody’s Ass”  or The Hamster Dance while you’re talking to them.

The more you get used to feeling those emotions, the better you’ll get at expressing them. Do it for long enough and soon you won’t need to use those particular tricks to soften your features and bring out that smile; you’ll be able to do it on your own.

Good luck.



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