I have a series of problems, four points that I desperately wanted to address and have answers to. Just a note, I may well bring this up in case it changes anything, but I am diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, and have difficulty socializing with others.
1) I’m still being haunted by the memories of friends I lost. I bonded with a wife and husband (in that order, I’ll refer to them as Jill and Jack respectively) over a game. We seemed to hit it off reasonably well, until Jill said that she was out on an anniversary with Jack. And I became obsessed and bitter at how well they have it; someone that’ll love you unconditionally, always be there, and eventually tie the knot with. It kinda grew to a point where Jill was disturbed, and eventually got me banned. I still kept in contact with them, and they did forgive me, but they’re still relatively guarded. One mistake sure, and they utterly despise me for using their names (not exact names, but inspired) in a story and making a dirty joke I thought they wouldn’t notice. (In April 1st, no less, making me the biggest fool of all). This destroyed my relation with them completely, and I thought I had moved on, but a friend of mine in the server said that they still hold a grudge for the previous incident, and aren’t keen on forgiving me (Jack, at least. He said Jill was probably willing to put it behind her). I really hit it off with them, and the guilt of being the one at fault for breaking the friendship still haunts me to this day. I still wonder, “If I hadn’t been so bitter.”, “If I could’ve kept quiet, kept all to myself.”, would we still have been friends.
2) After the above, I frequented another server, and I asked a girl user there for a face reveal (which I know now is a big no-no), which made her call me out as a perv, and made the other members of the server vilify me. I made another user block me for my emotional vampiric tendencies, and this incident effectively made me scared to talk to anyone I couldn’t ascertain the gender online. I regularly ask users I’m suspicious of if they’re girls, since I know to myself that, if they’re a girl, I’m going to inevitably ask them for a face reveal, they’re going to think I’m a perv, and they’ll hate me even if I just want to be genuine friends.
3) This segues into another case, I joined a mental help Discord server. As of writing, I am banned from the server for a public display of gynophobia, not malicious in intent, but still disturbing members. I came here seeking asylum and answers to my questions, and I did ask them about my problem communicating with girls, and they said my case must have come from a lack of physical affection, or ‘skin hunger’. How do I even solve this problem, especially with this pandemic quarantine in place? Touching or hugging myself does fuck-all, I’m too disconnected with my family to ask them. Friends? What’s that?
4) Leading all to this, I’ve lost passion. I play a handful of games, mostly RPG and turn-based games. Civ 5, Fire Emblem, Shogun 2. I’ve lost my passion for all of them. I don’t derive any enjoyment playing them anymore, yet I still do them for some reason. There are times where I just want to lie down on the bed, close my eyes, and never wake up. And I know these symptoms are coincidental with clinical depression. This isn’t helped that, after my ban from the mental health support server, the other server I visited vilified me for it even further, saying things such as “You’re a failure as a person.”, “Something’s really wrong with you if you got rejected by a mental help group.”, etc. The only thing they didn’t say outright was suicide.
I’m so lost and want to heal this, but carrying the guilt of losing Jack and Jill, along with everything else, I don’t know what to do. I want to see a therapist, but the quarantine forbids going outside. Worse yet, how do I regain my passion for the things I used to love?
Burning Down My House
OK BDMH, I’m going to be straight with you. You very clearly have problems that are going above and beyond my paygrade and are well into “you desperately need to be talking to a professional. And I mean an actual health care professional, not a mutual support Discord server, not subreddits, not any place that isn’t the office of a licensed and trained mental health professional.
Here’s the problem: you’re looking for help everywhere but where you’re actually going to get it. And frankly, the way you’re behaving, the way you’ve behaved and the way you’re doing everything but what you need to do is only going to make things worse. And to be perfectly honest: the fact that you are on the spectrum doesn’t really get you off the hook.
Let’s start with Jill and Jack. You were doing ok with them, but it’s pretty clear that you were focused on them to an unsettling degree. The fact that you got so upset that they went out on a date for their anniversary is a pretty good indicator that there’s more here than just being jealous that they were happy and in a relationship and you weren’t. Now maybe you had stronger feelings for Jill and were jealous that she was in a relationship with Jack, maybe you wanted a relationship exactly like theirs… dunno. But the fact that you got so upset about this that Jill told you to back off and you got banned (…from the Discord server? The game? You don’t say) is a sign that you were doing things that were pretty heinous.
Now your letter is a little unclear on the timeline but writing a story using them as characters and making some sort of obscene joke about them was either the inciting incident or the last straw and honestly… the fact that it was clear enough that they could tell you were talking about them is another mark that you really need to work on understanding and respecting boundaries and limits and what’s acceptable behavior. Badgering people about their relationship and using them as the basis for dirty jokes in your fiction? That’s going to be well past the point of acceptability for a lot of people.
Then there’s the fact that you, by your own admission, regularly pester strangers, first to reveal their gender to you, then for pictures. That, quite frankly, is very creepy, especially since you only do it to women or people you suspect are women. It doesn’t matter that you’re just asking for a “face reveal”, for whatever that means to you. It doesn’t matter what you may or may not be needing those pictures for. The fact of the matter is, if somebody wants to keep their gender ambiguous or unknown, that’s their choice and you need to respect it. Similarly, if they don’t want people — or just you, specifically — to know what they look like, that is also their decision and you need to respect that. Continually demanding either from them is unwelcome, it’s harassment and quite frankly, I’m unsurprised you got banned from the server. The fact that you “want to genuinely be friends” is irrelevant; you’re making people feel deeply uncomfortable with your behavior.
And while you seem to recognize that you’re creeping people out, you don’t seem to either be willing to stop doing it, or even take responsibility for your actions. I mean, you’re using incredibly passive language here; “made the other members of the server vilify me”, “got me banned”, “vilified me for it even further”. All of this is giving me the impression that you don’t seem to have actually accepted that this is your doing; you phrase these things as though they were unfairly thrust upon you, rather than being the consequences of your actions.
Now is skin hunger a thing? Yes. We’re pack animals, and physical touch is part of how we communicate, show affection and bond with one another. Not having as much physical contact with others can cause emotional distress; American culture in particular is very hands-off, and leaves a lot of people feeling disconnected and craving that contact with others. But to be very blunt: while there are ways of getting that need for physical contact met, you are in no way, shape or form in a place where I would feel comfortable recommending them to you. Considering how you’ve behaved with people on your various Discord servers, I would be doing a huge disservice to any service or community by pointing you to them. All of these would be groups or individuals that demand an understanding of consent, communication and boundaries — things that you are continuing to struggle with.
So right now the only thing you need to be doing is talking to a professional. And while yes, the pandemic means that you may not be able to visit a therapist in person, there are many, many therapists who do telemedicine and meet with their clients over Zoom, Skype and other apps. If you already have contact information for a therapist in your area, then I would tell you to start there. If not, then head to Psychology Today and use their referral directory to find a therapist in your area — especially someone who specializes in clients on the autism spectrum and need help with social skills and social cues.
If you want to heal, move forward and regain the passion for things you love, that needs to be your number one priority.
. . .
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 11 years. We’re best friends and very happy. I love him very much and know I plan on being with him for the long run. We get along with each other’s families and friends. We recently purchased our first home together, so I know there are no problems in regards to his commitment and dedication to me and our relationship.
I’ve known from very early on that he is not interested in marriage and this truly does not upset me. I know he also plans on sticking with me forever and that is all I need. He of course gets uncomfortable when family members pester him about “when are we getting married?” to which I try to intervene as quickly as I can by saying “It’s not for us, we’re happy with what we have now.” (I’m hoping by being the girlfriend saying this, it eliminates further pestering on his end due to gender norms).
We’ve had a few instances where friends or family members have gotten engaged, to which I appropriately reply how excited I am for them. I’ve been a bridesmaid/Maid of Honor in numerous weddings, so many times they want to show me their ideas or request advice. This causes my boyfriend to think I’m “catching the wedding bug”. I ensure to him every time I am not.
Here’s the catch though: there have been a few smaller, more intimate weddings that we have been guests of, to which my boyfriend will sometimes say to me when we’re alone or slow dancing: “We could do something like this.” To which I have no clue how to reply.
I am over the moon with what we have now and am perfectly content never getting married. However, I would get married if that is what he wanted. But I don’t KNOW what he wants.
Help. I am so confused. When I try to ask him about it he either brushes it off, says “I didn’t mean it”, or kind of shuts down. He doesn’t get mad or defensive, but his shutting down completely prevents us from having a proper discussion without him getting the wrong idea. Any idea how to approach this?
Waiting For an Explanation
Usually in cases like these, I say that you and your boyfriend need to use your words. But the problem here is that your boyfriend seems to be using his in ways that don’t make a lick of goddamn sense… when he uses them at all.
So unfortunately, you’re going to have to call the question and sit him down to have an extended Awkward Conversation. In this case, you’re going to need to tell him: “Hey, I’m honestly confused about where your head is at regarding our relationship, and I think you’ve got the wrong idea about what I’m expecting. I want to carve out some time to talk with you about this and make sure that we both understand each other, and we’re on the same page about things.” And then schedule a day and time that you are going to dedicate exclusively to having this conversation.
On that day, you’re going to need to take charge and direct the conversation. Start with a simple declaration of intent: you want to clarify things because you’re pretty certain that you and he aren’t understanding each other, and that you need him to listen and let you speak without interruption until you’re finished. You want to make sure that you get through this and speak your peace, and so you need him to just hold any questions or things that he feels he needs to clarify or what-have-you until you give him the go-ahead.
Next: tell him that you’ve been worried about having this conversation because when you’ve brought it up before, he tends to shut the conversation down and that leaves you more confused than before and afraid that he he may not get how you feel. You’re also worried that he may not understand your feelings or what you want, or have ideas about what you want that simply aren’t true.
Now you start to get into the meat of things. Start with telling him that this is what you understand his position to be regarding your relationship, marriage and so on; make it clear that this is what you have gathered from what he’s told you and so on. Then tell him that you agree with this, that you’re happy with what you have and that you don’t need to get married. Explain that the fact that your being in so many wedding parties — to the point that other people are coming to you for advice — doesn’t mean that you’re “getting the wedding bug”; it just means that you’re celebrating the marriage of friends or family members, and that you’re happy for them. Being their bridesmaid or maid of honor doesn’t mean that you’re secretly dreaming of your own wedding.
Next: tell him that, with all that in mind, the way he behaves is confusing to you. That when he’s said things like “we could do something like this,” you don’t understand what he means. You don’t know if he means some form of a commitment ceremony, some elaborate party with friends and family or what. For that matter, you don’t know if he says that because it’s something that he wants, or that he’s saying it because he thinks that this is something that you want.
Now finish with letting him know how clarifying these issues will make your relationship better. That you’ll both know for sure how the other feels, that you’ll both be on the same page regarding your relationship and its future, and that there won’t be this confusion about how you feel or about how he feels. If you both clarify things, communicate your feelings clearly and make sure that you both understand one another, not only will you both have a stronger relationship over all, but there won’t be any confusion or conflict arising from these miscommunications.
Then give him space to ask questions, clarify things he may not understand and let him share his side of things. And, just as you asked it of him, let him speak uninterrupted until he’s done. It may be difficult to do this, especially if you feel like he’s misunderstanding you or is misstating how you feel. However, it’s important to let him get his side out and then go back and clarify things, just as it was for the two of you. If you both are allowed to speak your peace uninterrupted, then its’ much easier for both of you to get your points across. Interrupting to ask questions or try to correct one another just ruins the flow of the conversation and risks either sending it down unrelated tangents or creating even more confusion… and a lot more frustration.
Now one thing I will say is that the way you’re answering family members’ questions about when you two might be getting married might be causing some of the confusion. While I realize that you’re saying that you’re happy with your relationship in its current state, when you say “we’re happy with what we have now,” it can sound like you’re saying that this is a temporary state that may change in the future. That could be causing him — or various family members or both — to think that you’re saying “we’re not interested in getting married yet“, rather than “we’re not interested in getting married at all“. It might be helpful to phrase it as “we are happy with our relationship as it is”, or even “we’re happy with what we have,” with no conditional. That, at least, makes it less likely that someone — whether your boyfriend or others — will interpret this as saying “not yet but maybe some day…”
But for now: have that Awkward Conversation and make sure that you and your boyfriend both understand what the other wants. The more you two can communicate clearly about this, the easier it will be to put all this behind you and continue building a beautiful life together.
This post was previously published on Paging Dr. NerdLove.
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