The Dating Nerd is a shadowy figure whose whereabouts and identifying details remain unknown. What we do know is that he is really, really good at dating. He’s been on more dates than you can shake a lengthy bar tab at, and he’s here to help the average guy step his dating game up a notch — or several.
Hi Dating Nerd,
My relationship is amazing — we spend a ton of time together and make each other laugh a lot. The sex is great. We've met each other's friends and everything's been smooth. But my girlfriend wants some space, she just told me. What do I do? Is this her way of preparing me for a breakup? Is she looking to hook up with other guys? We've been together for six months, in case that helps clarify the situation.
– Scared of Space
Scared of Space,
I’m sorry for what I’m about to say. Because it’s going to sound insulting. And I don’t want to insult you. I’m sure you’re a very intelligent guy with a fascinating inner life, a complicated childhood, whatever — you’re, like, a three-dimensional person, who doesn’t deserve my condescension. My intention is not to insinuate that you’re some kind of idiot. As much as it might sound that way.
If your girlfriend wants you to give her space, it might just be because she wants space. This is crazy, I know. I’m aware that you may email AskMen and demand that my salary be taken away. You come to me for my deep, penetrating insights about the inscrutable mysteriousness that supposedly comprises female behavior, and I tell you that your girlfriend actually just means what she says. I forgive you if you’d like to suggest I be replaced with a robot, or a monkey, or a robotic monkey.
But, really: She probably says she needs some time alone because she’s just a little irritated with having you around all the time. She wants to hang out with her friends. The world is not over. Everything is fine.
So why doesn’t this seem like a satisfying explanation? Why have you written me? Well, my suspicion is that you’re suffering from a neurosis very common to our romantic era, something I call Exceptional Boyfriend Syndrome. Basically, your problem is that you’re an extremely thoughtful guy. You grew up hearing that women are taken for granted in relationships, and you listened, because you’re a good person. So you never take your girlfriend for granted — you’re always giving her heartfelt compliments, actively listening to her in conversations, going to her dumb spin class with her — the whole thing. You make an effort to not smell like dirty ass all the time. You cook dinner. You’re a prize-winning boyfriend.
But, let’s be honest: You’re not totally in this just to be a good person. You want the love you give turned back at you. And it is. Mostly. However, you discover this weird thing: Your girlfriend still isn’t 100% happy to spend time around you always. There’s still this maybe 8% of the time where she’s grumpy and cranky, sick of all your stories, and not at all curious about what your asshole boss told you. She’s not always interested in hearing your brilliant theories about Quentin Tarantino movies. She’s not giggling away about your stupid fart jokes. Maybe, just maybe, she doesn’t immediately volunteer stellar oral sex the very moment you’re alone.
This is really confusing! Because you’ve done everything right, and you still, apparently, haven’t arrived in the perfect relationship — the one where you and your partner sail through years of unbroken happiness and incredible sex with no conflict whatsoever.
Disappointingly enough, reader, that is not a thing. There is no way to arrive at a place where you never irritate your partner. Unfortunately, people are complex, and governed by emotions with no particular logic. Sometimes, your girlfriend wakes up in the morning, and looks at you, and wonders why she doesn’t want to hang out with the man she loves most in the world. And this isn’t unique to the person you are now dating. Nobody you ever date, ever, will have infinite reserves of patience for you.
So, your girlfriend tells you she needs some time alone. And you’re immediately filled with paranoia. Maybe she’s talking with one of her friends — the ugly one, the one who never liked you — about how your relationship has grown stale. Maybe she’s actively looking for someone to cheat on you with, at www.dickfinder.com. Maybe she’s just fallen out of love with you, and would rather sit and stare at the ceiling than ever see you again.
Haven’t I considered that? Isn’t that possible? Well, actually, yes, it is slightly possible, unfortunately. There’s a remote chance that she’s feeling so claustrophobic that she wants to escape your relationship altogether. And if she’s in that place, well, there’s actually not much you can do about it, other than be a good boyfriend, and try to address the other problems in your relationship if there are any. Don’t hang on super tight and act desperate and afraid. That’s not attractive. Getting all up in her face and aggressively trying to persuade her that your relationship is great isn’t the ideal way to make her feel like she’s got some breathing room.
But if you’re, as you say, having a beautiful relationship, and her mom likes you, and her dad sort of likes you, chances are she’s just a little tired of your crap today, and wants you to come back later this week.
This can happen at any time. In fact, it can especially happen when things are really great, so great that you and your girlfriend are clinging to each other all the time and accidentally run out of emotional oxygen. A few years ago, I took my girlfriend on a beautiful trip to Colombia. We escaped the dead of winter and went to a hot place with fresh seafood where we could wear very little clothing. And when we checked into our hotel we were giddy with happiness. But after two days together we, well, weren’t. Conversation stuttered into awkward pauses. I could tell something was wrong.
But that was weird, because nothing was wrong, right? Well, that was exactly the problem — we were in paradise, completely alone together, but she felt so much pressure to be happy that she became unhappy immediately. Which is something we can all relate to, right? When you’re feeling irritated by life itself for some ethereal reason, someone telling you to cheer up is going to, if anything, put you in an even fouler mood. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that we had nobody else to hang out with. So we decided to take a couple of days to wander through the city apart from each other. That relieved the pressure immediately. Afterwards, our relationship resumed its very high normal quality.
So just take a couple of days off, text her intermittently, and take her out for dinner after your little break. You’re lucky — unlike in the case of a lot of relationship problems, this is actually as simple as your girlfriend says it is. Enjoy a couple of days of solitude. This is a great opportunity to order Domino’s, scratch your balls, hang out with those male friends you used to have, and just realize that being alone for a second or two isn’t going to kill you.