Each week, Dawn Serra answers one of your burning questions on the blog. This week Totally Annoyed asks:
I want to start by saying I love your podcast. I just discovered it a few weeks ago and I have been listening every chance I get. It makes my commute in the Houston traffic much easier. I have learned so much, and you have made me think of so many things I want to try.
I have been exclusively dating a guy who is very sweet. We were both single for quite some time before we met. We have quite a lot in common, and we sort of went pretty fast. I feel like I have more life and relationship experience than him. One thing I do like is that I feel totally comfortable experimenting with him and asking for what I want. The relationship is pretty new.
The problem is that he is getting on my nerves. Everything he does and says lately annoys me and we end up getting in an argument. I find myself needing more and more space from him. I honestly don’t see a future with him. I have a child, and he is 43 and doesn’t have any idea what he is doing with his life. But, the problem is that the sex is so amazing that I don’t want to give it up right now.
I’m not sure if I should break it off or try to make it work.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is do you want to be in a committed relationship? Not just with this guy, but with anyone. Is a relationship something you’d like to be in, if you find a good match?
It might seem basic, but TONS of people go into the dating scene and end up in a relationship by default, because “society”, when they actually don’t really want to be in a relationship. They’d rather casually date or have a few regular hook-ups/FWB situations.
Flying solo is a completely valid choice – even though our society tells us that single people are sad and lonely and need to be in relationship to prove their worth. Bullshit.
So, start at the beginning.
Are you open to being in a relationship with all of the work and the communication and the growing that relationships inevitably require? Explore your why…
If the answer is no, great!
Tell this guy that you think he’s lovely for all of the reasons that you mentioned. Let him know you did some soul searching and that you’d love to continue a sexual relationships with him if he’s interested, but you’d like to transition out of an intimate/committed relationship.
He gets to feel hurt and rejected. He gets to ask questions and have his feelings. Allow space for that, and then see if you both can find a way to make something delicious happen that works for everyone involved. If he isn’t interested, it’s OK for you to feel sad about losing the great sex, but there are lots of opportunities for great sex in the world. Dick is abundant and low value.
If the answer is yes, you would be open to being in relationship with someone, then we need to drill down into THIS GUY, specifically.
Relationships all follow a pretty standard trajectory: Oh hi, you’re cool – we are pretty cool together – THIS IS THE BEST THING EVER – eh, the shiny is wearing off – stop bugging the shit out of me, I can’t stand your face…
And then you’re at a crossroads.
Each person and circumstance is totally different. For some people, that’s the right time to part ways and move on, having learned what they wanted to learn or because they realize all the oxytocin/love drugs hid some behaviors that they just can’t live with.
For others, it’s the time to dig in and start doing the work that is any long-term relationship.
Whether it’s family, friends, or intimate partners, all relationships take work. Even (especially?) relationships with ourselves.
Totally Annoyed, you listed out some things about your guy that sound pretty awesome to me. He is sweet, you feel safe enough to experiment and ask for what you want, you have a lot in common.
What, exactly, is it that’s annoying you?
- Does he not listen when you share something or ask for help, so you’re feeling unappreciated?
- Is he not contributing equally and so you feel resentful about the emotional labor – like planning all the dates or initiating all the text exchanges?
- Does he have some kind of personality quirk that was endearing or neutral, and now it’s really irritating – such as a baby voice or a way of joking with you?
- Did you not really want things to get serious but he woo’d you into a relationship and now you feel trapped?
Blanket annoyance typically means a need of yours is going unmet and resentment is building.
And if you think he isn’t feeling your annoyance, you’re wrong. He is probably in as much discomfort/hurt as you are.
So, what is that need of yours that feels neglected or unseen?
Would that annoyance fade away if you asked for something different or let him know what wasn’t working?
More importantly, is this relationship worth the cost of having that conversation and navigating those changes? Only you can answer that.
Many of us struggle with relationships because most of us never received any kind of training in how to advocate for ourselves, many of us are partnered with folks who don’t know how to show up in the ways we need, or because we are too rigid in our expectations.
All of that said, you are by no means required to stay in this relationship. You can ask him for a purely sexual relationship, with clear boundaries about what you do and don’t want, if you decide that’s what you want.
But, if you like this guy and you feel like there’s potential for something – get clear on how you want to feel in the relationship, dig underneath the annoyance to find the real source of your distress – are you betraying yourself by not asking for something or are you expecting him to read your mind or do things your way and so you’re setting him up for failure – and then give yourself permission to head in the direction of what feels best for you.
Giving up great sex can be SO difficult, but being annoyed all of the time probably isn’t a price most of us would be willing to pay for more than a few days or weeks.
Go forth and do some soul searching, Totally Annoyed. Then have the conversation that needs to be had – with yourself and with your guy.
Looking for an article on relationships that I think is pretty rad? This piece in The Atlantic knocks it out of the park – kindness versus contempt. The two main predictors of relationship success or failure.
What do you think? Have you ever reached a place where your partner annoyed you with everything they did? How did you work through it or move past it? Comment below with your thoughts and help Totally Annoyed out.
Have your own question about sex, relationships, porn, or your body? Send it my way (there’s an anonymous option) and I may answer your inquiry on the podcast or in the weekly advice column.