Dear Wendy: “My Boyfriend Has A Teen Cheerleader Fetish”

I’m 28 and in a very loving relationship with my 31-year-old boyfriend of about three years. Recently, I’ve been getting annoyed, or perhaps better stated, creeped out, by his interest in high school girls. Not that he knows any personally — as far as I’m aware — but I know he’s perused photos of high school juniors and seniors on Facebook and he’s been recording high school cheerleading and volleyball shows on ESPN. It’s really starting to bother me as well as make me feel like he’s not turned on by me because I’m no longer in shape like an 18-year-old. I mentioned this to him and he said he would stop, but it’s still really bothering me. What do you think? — Too Old For My Older Man?

I’m curious what your conversation was between you and your boyfriend. Did you tell him you feel like he’s not turned on by you? Because, if you did, and if he didn’t reply with a convincing argument about all the ways you really do it for him, I’d be really pissed. It’s one thing to have a fetish which, if we’re being honest, probably isn’t all that unusual — many grown men like the way athletic teenage girls look; it’s quite another thing to take that fetish to a level in which it’s negatively impacting your relationship and the self-esteem of your partner.

It’s your job to let him know he’s reached that level, so if you haven’t adequately expressed that to him explicitly, you need to do that ASAP. If you have let him know just how greatly his behavior is affecting your relationship, and he isn’t adjusting his behavior — or if he’s adjusting his behavior but you’re still creeped out knowing that he lusts after teenage cheerleaders — you’re going to have to decide for yourself whether that particular “quirk” of his, whether he indulges it or not, is a dealbreaker. You will also have to decide whether you’re going to take your boyfriend’s word for it when he says “he’ll stop,” or if you plan to snoop through his DVR recordings and his internet history to see whether he’s keeping his promise or not. Because, if you can’t trust the guy, you have bigger issues than your boyfriend’s interest in The National High School Cheerleading Championship.

I’m finding myself in a crisis of confidence. I used to be overweight, and through a new-found love of healthy food and marathon running, I’ve gotten my weight under control, and I think I look pretty good. I’ve got a great job, own a home, and I think I have a pretty cool personality. The problem is my weight has always caused me to have low confidence, so at the age of 26, I can count on two hands how many dates I’ve been. So, I’ve decided to give internet dating a shot and signed up for one of the more reputable sites. I began corresponding with a seemingly great guy, lengthy emails back and forth for a month and then an exchange of phone numbers that lead to frequent texts. In an effort to be more confident and assertive, I asked him if he’d like to meet, which went way out of my comfort zone. He eagerly agreed to the weekend I’d chosen since I’d be in his town for a wedding. The closer we got to that particular weekend, I couldn’t pin him down on any details (time/location etc.) I didn’t want to be a stalker, so I backed off a bit. The Friday before I was heading to his town, I sent a text saying we really needed to figure this out. He wrote back saying he totally forgot about an obligation he had to attend that weekend. I asked if he’d like to meet another time and he said sure, but didn’t offer any suggestions for when. I decided to leave the ball in his court and let him make the next move. That was a week ago and I haven’t heard back.

Since my confidence is a work in progress, and since I admittedly don’t have much dating experience, I’m wondering what happened. Did he get nervous about meeting me? Did he genuinely forget he had an obligation and just wait until the last minute to let me know because he’s a guy? Am I making too big of a deal out of this and freaking out for nothing? I was really starting to like the guy, as much as you can like someone you’ve never met, so it’s a bit disappointing that when I finally thought I might get to meet a nice guy, it doesn’t seem to have worked out. I decided to get back on the horse and have begun communication with two other guys, but I’m worried the same thing will happen again. I’d appreciate any advice you and your readers have since my love life and my confidence need all the help it can get! — Low Confidence

Yes, you are making too big a deal about this and freaking out for nothing. Dating is a numbers game and if you’ve been on fewer than 10 dates in your lifetime, it’s understandable that you put a lot of value on this one potential, but you need to get over it and move on. This kind of things happens all the time in dating — so, yes, it probably will happen again, as you fear — especially online dating where people don’t have the same accountability as they do with people they’ve met face-to-face or through friends. It’s easy to simply disconnect and disappear when you’ve changed your mind about meeting up, and trust me, there are lots of reasons someone would change his mind that have absolutely nothing at all to do with you. Trying to guess what someone’s reason is is a fruitless waste of time.

I know it sucks when you’ve invested time and energy into getting to know someone online, only to be stood up at the last minute. It blows when you build up someone in your mind and begin imagining how he might fit into this fantasy you’ve created of the perfect partner only to never even get to meet him. But this is precisely why you shouldn’t assign too much weight to some guy from a dating site whom you haven’t even met yet. You shouldn’t spend too much time crafting lengthy, in-depth emails that reveal a lot about yourself, nor should you get too sucked into his lengthy prose. You should get to know enough to determine whether you are sufficiently attracted to and have enough in common with a guy to make it through an hour or so of conversation over coffee or drinks. And as soon as you make that determination, you should do just that: meet for a quick date. If you have a connection in person and you both feel it, great! Meet up again. If you don’t, oh well. At least you didn’t get too hyped up about the guy.

So, keep the train a-movin’, OK? Don’t linger at one stop hoping to pick up passengers, and don’t get discouraged if the passengers you do pick up are not what you’re looking for. Just keep moving. (But stay close to your own town. You’ll have more opportunities to gain low-stress dating experience if you don’t venture too far away from home). When you start getting tired or jaded, take a break. Look elsewhere for dates; join some clubs; ask your friends to set you up or introduce you to other singles. Eventually, if you go out with enough people, you’ll find someone worth really getting to know. Maybe you’ll even get lucky and find him fairly quickly. And if the stars are aligned just so, you might even fall in love with each other and have a happy relationship. It happens, I promise!

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