A Short Survival Guide to Dating Someone Who Doesn’t Get It

Oh lordy, this sort of thing again. While I don’t find that article particularly offensive (though… fairy tales? Really?), it’s back to a whole bunch of pretty dumb concepts. Specifically the one-two punch of “Scifi is for boys and girls don’t get it!” and “Girls who do like scifi are amaaaaaazing and I looooooooooove them.” On the assumption that I don’t need to retread why either one of those points is ridiculous, let’s move on.

I’ve been the half of a relationship who loves scifi, with a significant other who thought it was, at best, silly — but mostly thought it was kind of dumb and immature. And it is indeed frustrating, but guess what? The way to deal with that was not being thinking about how awesome the dude in question would have been if only he had liked the same things I did. Because here’s a thing about relationships: why would you ever be in one if you aren’t happy with the person you’re dating? Not an idealized version of who you’re dating, not what you hope that person can someday become. Why would you date someone if you don’t like him or her for who he or she is?

Look, I have no real qualifications for giving relationship advice. I’ve been in a few serious relationships but am single at the moment. I’m not a therapist. But here’s a quick rundown of how I survived and (gasp!) enjoyed being in a relationship with a non-scifi-lover. And guess what? It wasn’t by trying to change him. It was pretty much all things I did, and internal decisions on my part.*

ONE: Accept that you and your partner have different feelings about scifi, and his feelings are not positive. You know what? Science fiction certainly contains great literature, great stories, and great concepts and characters; it also contains a lot of things that are ridiculous. It’s associated with being a big nerd. So it’s kind of on you to accept that hey — you love something that’s nerdy and sometimes ridiculous.

This wasn’t such a big deal for me, but I do my best to empathize with people who have a hard time with it. That scifi is nerdy and ridiculous is not a negative thing, or a negative reflection of you as a person. It’s not bad. It’s not a problem. It is what it is; you are who you are. Know thyself. Embrace thyself. Don’t be ashamed of who you are or what you love: that’s painful. If you’re secure in your own tastes, you’ll not just feel better overall, but you won’t feel as much need for your partner to love what you love to validate you.

TWO: Relationships are about people coming together, not becoming each other. It’s not just that you shouldn’t need your partner’s approval to validate your interests, it’s that it’s completely okay to have interests and hobbies that you and your partner doesn’t share. There’s no reason why you should do everything together, and it’s always seemed to me to be way healthier to have your own identity than to get subsumed by a relationship anyway. Yay for feminism, which has certainly helped me learn and internalize that idea.

THREE: Respect goes both ways. Your partner may not like scifi, and may not get scifi, but that doesn’t entitle your partner to make disparaging comments about something he knows you love. Communication is hard, and calling someone you care about out for making you feel bad is often even harder, but regardless of how he feels about the genre, he should respect you — your intelligence, and your taste — enough to not say things that will make you feel shitty about a hobby you love.

However, this is a two-edged blade. He has every right to dislike scifi, and to think it’s ridiculous. Expressing those feelings in a way that’s still respectful to you is hard, but if he does, guess what? He’s not any less intelligent than you are, and there’s nothing wrong with him for not getting it. You’re not entitled to disparage him for that, either.

So yeah, it’s hard to talk about it, sometimes. Ideally, he’d be able to enjoy your glee when you find something you really love and adore even if he doesn’t get it, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, the best you can do really is to respectfully simply agree to disagree and change the topic to something neither one of you will find frustrating.

FOUR: If you feel you must — really, truly must — try and get him into science fiction, there is no magic combination of shows/movies/books that is guaranteed to work. Approaching in terms of “girls like fairy tales,” or “boys like space ships,” isn’t going to fly, because this isn’t about what a group of people allegedly likes. It’s about what your partner, specifically, might like. You know your partner’s tastes in stories and characters; only you can gage what he or she might appreciate.

My recommendation, if you’re going to do this, is also in how you approach it. Tell your partner, “Hey, I think you might like this one, I think it would be cool if we watched it together.” Be prepared to accept a similar overture in response, or even to suggest one. Don’t over-intro or spend too much time talking up whatever you’re suggesting: you want him to feel free to respond genuinely, not to force himself to have a positive reaction to please you — that will only lead to resentment down the line. Be okay with giving up or turning it off if he doesn’t like it after all. Be prepared for him to like one or two specific shows or books, but not interested in the genre as a whole. Try not to be too disappointed if these things happen, because not everyone will get it.

Hey. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. Either way as long as what he does get is that it’s important to you and a part of who you are, and as long as he likes you for who you are… Well, at the end of the day, does it really matter if he gets science fiction or not?

* From this point forward, I’m talking from my perspective, which is as a woman who loves scifi dating a dude who does not. This relationship is obviously not indicative of all kinds of relationships out there. So not only may what works for me not work for everyone, but I’ve got no idea how this might apply to other kinds of relationships.

4 Comments on A Short Survival Guide to Dating Someone Who Doesn’t Get It

  1. Russian Brides
    July 14, 2008 at 5:52 AM (11 years ago)

    As for point number two: I think it is better for both partners to share some hobbies or spare time activities, in such a way they are able to establish kind of partnership besides just affection or romantic feelings.

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  2. Rebecca
    July 19, 2008 at 8:56 AM (11 years ago)

    Russian Brides, I don’t disagree with that. But I didn’t say that no activities should be shared or that it’s never worthwhile to share your hobby with your significant other. But there are cases where your partner will have zero interest in a specific hobby, and it’s important for people to accept that that’s okay and it doesn’t mean you should ditch the hobby.

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  3. vampirespider
    July 23, 2008 at 4:03 PM (11 years ago)

    The fairytale thing actually made me laugh – two of my housemates and I were discussing a couple of weeks ago how we don’t like Star Wars as much as most scifi, because it’s too much like fantasy/fairytales. On the other hand, bring on the Star Trek and Doctor Who.

    I’m currently dating a girl who doesn’t get scifi and I agree with your post . Also, it’s really not so bad, dating a non-geek.

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