I'm on vacation but the "Savage Love" Letter of the Day—a.k.a. SLLOTD—must go on! Subbing for me this week…
Jesse Bering, PhD, is regular contributor to Scientific American and Slate magazines and other publications. Bering is a self-described “godless gay psychological scientist with a penchant for far-flung evolutionary theories.” Bering has been called the “Hunter S. Thompson of science writing" and his recently released book, Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? And Other Reflections on Being Human—which I'm reading on this beach right now—is getting great reviews. The Sunday Times called it “deeply thought-provoking … more than some scientific stocking-stuffer.” New Scientist described it as “intelligent and sharp-witted … with just enough smut to keep the pages turning at a furious rate.” Bering is also the author of The Belief Instinct, which the American Library Association named one of the “25 Best Books of 2011.” Bering’s website is www.jessebering.com, you can find him on Twitter @JesseBering, and he'll be answering your questions all week.—Dan.
I'm a 23-year-old straight female who has never been in a serious relationship. When I go out with any guy (even one who seems perfect for me), by the third date, I get a little voice in the back of my head telling me to run. This voice tells me that he isn't right for me, and that I need to leave him before he gets attached and I break his heart when someone better comes along. This has been happening to me over and over again since I started dating in my teens. It is like some deep primal urge that refuses to let me settle down with anyone or even consider the idea. I just went out on a date with another guy and the voice is back. Should I follow my instincts and run, or should I try to ignore them and attempt to see where this may end up going? It has crossed my mind that I'm just not cut out for monogamy. How can I get close enough to one partner to reach that point of trust in our relationship to open it up, if I start freaking out and wanting to run by the third date? Like I said, this has been happening since I first stated dating in my teens and it has not gotten any better.
Girl with Commitment Issues
My response after the jump…
If that annoying voice you keep hearing sounds like a possessive elderly man or a tetchy witch with a British accent, it could be schizophrenia. If so, you need to see a psychiatrist pronto. (Seriously, you’re really highlighting the voice business, so I’m only somewhat kidding.) But assuming you mean something more along the lines of a gut feeling telling you to deplane that flight before it crashes into the deep blue sea of heartbreak and eternal misery, get over yourself, GWCI, because the guys you’re so worried about permanently scarring certainly will. Unless you have the looks of Kate Upton, the financial savvy of Warren Buffett, and you’re harboring the genetic material of the world’s next super-athlete, guess what, most guys—at least those without some preexisting mental disorder—will survive your loss.
Could you potentially hurt them if you give yourself to one of these guys more fully than that silly voice in your head currently allows? Sure. And it may take time for them to recover. But they’ll go on with their lives just as you’ll do yours. You’re well out of the puppy-love adolescent stage of dating where you might have been the emotional epicenter of some poor boy’s tiny little universe, GWCI. Grown men seeking meaningful, long-term relationships aren’t so naÏve as to be unaware that the world is crawling with women just like you. They know the risks. And if you’re not up for the job of being more than a fleeting good time (keep in mind, in their eyes, you really are nothing more than just some “girl with commitment issues”), there’s certainly no shortage of other women who are.
You’re confusing monogamy with love and happiness. These things don’t go hand-in-hand—not for every couple, at least. There’s absolutely no reason why you need to sacrifice your non-monogamous sex life for marital bliss and everything positive that goes along with that, such as having a best friend as your spouse and maybe even having children. There are legions of good men, some of whom you’ve probably left in the dust before bothering to have this conversation with them, who feel just as you do about monogamy being incompatible with their needs. Unless you’re too selfish to allow your trusted partner to be with other women while you’re with other men, an open relationship with well-defined rules can give you the best of both worlds.
You’re an over-analyzer and will probably ruminate over who is and who isn’t “The One” (no such thing, by the way) for a long time to come. But to put it to you bluntly, GWCI, because I think you need to hear this: If you continue on this path of refusing to invest more than three measly dates in a promising guy who is genuinely interested in you and who doesn’t have any egregious criminal flaws that would give credence to your overactive “instincts,” the only person you’re going to seriously hurt in the end is yourself—your lonely, lonesome self. I could quote Nietzsche here, but I think Bea Arthur, speaking as Dorothy Zbornak in The Golden Girls, said it best: “The bottom line is, if you take a chance in life, sometimes good things happen, sometimes bad things happen. But honey, if you don’t take a chance, nothing happens.”