The Internet Made Me Do It, plus Don’t Blame the Pasta
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’m tired of disposable relationships. I’m young, but I wish I could meet people the way it was done before the Internet and all these silly phone apps; where you actually looked somebody in the eye and got to know them—at least a little bit. Today, people meet on their screens, maybe hook up or maybe not, then you never hear from them again. I admit I do the same thing, but I long for something more substantial. How can a relationship get started if people are hiding behind their laptops?
Dr. Hurd replies,
The Internet is just the context wherein the problem takes place; it’s not the problem itself. Before the Internet, people said, “I wish I could meet people outside of bars. I’m tired of one-night stands.” Back then, people blamed the bars for other people’s actions. Today, they blame the Internet. That’s like blaming the telephone for the fight you had with a friend, or the automobile for someone’s bad driving choices.
It sounds like you’re looking for people who want more depth to a relationship. Obviously, if someone’s looking for fantasy or something casual, the Internet provides that opportunity. The best way I can think to get around this is to spend time only with people who wish to meet in person. As with any first encounter with a stranger, you can minimize risk by meeting in a crowded place.
Because you’re young, many will assume that something casual or “disposable” is all you want. Your job is to convey the opposite. One way to do this is by just saying it outright. An even better way is to not waste your time with someone who isn’t interested in what you want.
You have the power to protect yourself from someone hiding behind his laptop. You don’t have to talk sexually or personally until you first have the opportunity to meet. Yes, this will mean you’ll lose out on some people, but that’s the point, isn’t it?
Try to avoid the trap of victim-think. Victim-think will tell you, as a child of the Internet era, “That damned Internet. It’s the reason I can’t find love.” Just like in the 1980s people said, “Those damn dance bars. They’re the reason I can’t find love.” There are only two reasons you can’t find love. The first is the choices of other people who want different things from you. The second? You. Work on the second, and you’ll be on your way to romantic happiness. Negative thinking is the only thing that can stop you.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I’m trying to lose weight. When we go out to eat, my partner (often after a few drinks) berates me for not eating certain things. “You should do it at least this time,” he says. But I know that if I have even one bite of that crème brûlée or pasta that it’s a slippery slope back to overeating again. But he actually gets mad at me and sometimes even makes a scene. He is making a difficult task even more difficult. It seems like he’s trying to sabotage my efforts when I’m trying to be healthier for myself and more attractive to him.
Dr. Hurd replies,
Did it ever occur to you that maybe he doesn’t want you to be thinner? Maybe he’s afraid other men will find you attractive and you’ll leave him for one of them. If that’s the case, then try to remember that it’s not the crème brûlée or pasta you’re fighting about. It’s your loyalty to him. Try asking him (in a non-confrontational way), “What’s really bugging you here? I know you know that I’m trying to cut back on my eating. Yet you’re undercutting my efforts by pushing me to eat anyway. There must be a reason. Please help me understand.”
I know that this is not usually how people communicate. Usually, they either stuff it inside and complain to somebody else, or blow up in an unkind, self-defeating way. Then, next thing you know, the issue becomes why you’re being so mean and hostile, rather than what actually concerns you. So why not skip the middleman and get right to the essential question: “What’s this really about?”
Maybe he’s not insecure at all. It’s also possible that he really enjoys eating with you, and he misses the fun you had doing it together. There’s nothing wrong with that. Honor this motive and feel flattered by it. But hold your ground. Explore with him some other ways you can have fun together. Change is sometimes difficult, even when it’s for the better.
It’s possible he doesn’t realize how hard behavioral change is. To him, it might seem silly not to let yourself indulge once in a while. But when you’re really hooked on something, it’s hard to break a habit unless you go all the way. Try explaining that to him, and be patient.
Don’t let this pass, and don’t let it build up either. If you do, then you’ll end up fighting about something different from what the issue really is.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.