Ask Dr. V, Bad Boy or the Nice Guy

Venus Nicolino holds a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. Her column addresses Love, Life and Relationships

Dear Dr V.

I’ve been with my boyfriend for about four months. He’s a wonderful, caring, devoted person. I feel awful about this but I find myself more attracted to his friends than I am to him! I think a big part of it is that he’s kind of quiet and reserved, and many of his friends are gregarious, outgoing, maybe a little wild. I feel like I’ve been looking for these qualities in a partner for a long time. I do care for my boyfriend deeply, and I didn’t really realize he was kind of the opposite of what I was looking for (in this way) until I saw the comparison with his friends. He’s starting to talk about us maybe moving in together, and then who knows what else. I’m totally confused about what the right thing to do is. Stay comfortable or move on?


Dear Conflicted,

You do seem to have found yourself in a bind. Many times when people write in, I often end up suggesting they have a candid but empathic discussion with the person or persons causing the problems in their lives. In your case, however, I think you will need to look inward and take an honest assessment of what it is you really want out of a romantic partner in order to find the resolution for this problem.

While compromise is an essential ingredient of any healthy and functional relationship, it’s worth remembering that while it’s OK to compromise to resolve differences and facilitate communication, I would advise against compromising what in our hearts we know to be true. That is to say, don’t be dishonest with yourself or each other in the name of not upsetting the apple cart.

The laws of attraction that bring people together can be quite complex, once we get past the superficial aspects of looks and small talk. From how you describe it, it sounds like your boyfriend exhibits personality traits that are the polar opposite of what you would look for in a mate. Yet, you say that you two have been together for four months. That’s not exactly chump change in relationship time. I think it would be worth considering not only what it is that drew you to this man in the first place, but also what’s kept you together and what is potentially driving you apart. From where I sit, I see two possible explanations.The first is that you two could potentially have a fulfilling and committed relationship. In this case, a probable source of your anxiety could be a fear of commitment. So what you’re feeling might be something akin to the “grass is always greener” syndrome. If after some introspection you find this to ring true, then I would try “watering the lawn” a bit. By this I mean you should try and recapture some of the fun, excitement and surprise that surely drew you together to begin with. Change your routines; go to different restaurants or nightspots.

I’m a big advocate of day trips in the car; get out and explore somewhere close by that neither of you has been to.

Taking this kind of action will give you something to look forward to, something new to share together, and hopefully a springboard out of the doldrums you now find yourself in. It may also offer you a window into what it is that lit the spark between you in the first place. You may discover that those qualities you thought you desired in a mate, qualities lacking in this man, are really not that important to you after all.

The other possibility is that you two are in fact not compatible, and the relationship should not continue. The last line of your question set off red flags and bells for me. It almost sounded like you already knew the answer, or at least, you knew what the actual choice you are facing here is. That being to remain in “comfortable” dissatisfaction (although I think a more apt description would be “unsatisfying stability”) or move on in to the Unknown, which can be a frightening prospect. If your heart’s telling you that is in fact what the situation is, then for both of your sakes I suggest you end the relationship in the most respectful and empathic way possible. You can be completely honest in your explanation; the simple truth would be that your personalities just don’t mesh. I realize bearing the responsibility of ending a relationship can itself be an intimidating and upsetting burden to shoulder, but bear in mind that to continue on with someone you know is not right for you dishonors both yours and your partner’s heart. And the unsatisfactory status quo you’re in now will surely ferment into mutual resentment and contempt. While parting now may seem harsh and painful, to deliberately remain in a dysfunctional state, especially when it could be avoided, is infinitely more hurtful. It’s also a waste of everyone’s precious time here on Earth.

So, bearing all this in mind, I would make some time and space for yourself to reflect on the situation. Take some time alone to focus on these internal issues. Prayer could be a useful tool in a situation like this, or you could make it something to focus on during a yoga practice or workout. Even a long walk might give you the mental and physical space you need to take an honest personal inventory. The answers you seek are already at your fingertips.  It’s up to you to recognize and honor what your own personal truth is.

With Empathy,

Dr. V

Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.

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