Ask Dr. Nerdlove

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a college student who semi-recently ended the only relationship I have ever been in. After taking a few months to recover, I have gotten over my old relationship, which started in high school. Recently, now that I am single, I am getting a lot of attention from guys, both from ones that I am attracted to and not attracted to. I have ended up in a predicament in which I feel like I have at least three guys (but generally more) contacting me any given day. The guys can generally be categorized as:

1. Guy I had no initial attraction to, but due to not wanting to be seen as shallow, have wanted to reciprocate in case they are actually really cool dudes who are actually my soulmates who would grow on me in time (my ex boyfriend I was not initially very attracted to but after dating him for a while I fell for him) 

2. Guy I am not attracted to and have been trying to kindly reject but are generally not getting the hint 

3. Guy I am attracted to and he is attracted to me

The second category of guys is the largest for me. Most of these guys I have assumed were interested in a friendship, and only later I have realized they wanted to talk to me because they were attracted to me. The problem is, they are really nice guys and my attempts at telling them that I only see them as friends can go over their heads, no matter how explicit I think I’m being.

The first category I unfortunately lead on for the early stages of my post-breakup life. I assumed men I was attracted to would not ever feel the same way about me and that it would be shallow to not give people a chance based on first impressions. I don’t know how to reject someone after giving them a chance, so it stresses me out whenever I receive a message from or talk to a guy from this category.

The third category of guys stresses me out a lot because of two reasons:

1. I think they are only looking to hook up or they actually are only looking to hook up 

2. I think they lose interest or they actually lose interest

I am anxious to go out with guys I am attracted to because I think they are just going to try to sleep with me instead of get to know me more (because they often are). When it comes to actually hanging out with these guys, I generally procrastinate doing so because situations like that make me uncomfortable. If I do actually get up the courage to meet these men, they either lose interest or I think they lose interest and I decide to instead meet some new attractive men to date. Sometimes, however, the guy who I thought lost interest actually didn’t and later contacts me but I already have a guy who I also like too.

My phone keeps blowing up from way too many messages every day, and all I want is to have one guy who I like message me and show me interest and that he actually want to get to know me before giving me a tour of his bedroom. How do I get myself out of this mess I’ve made myself?

Too Much of A Weird Thing

DEAR TOO MUCH OF A WEIRD THING: Right let’s roll this from the top.

First things first, TMAWT: it’s good that you give guys who may not necessarily your cup of tea a shot, but you’re not obligated to date dudes who don’t do it for you, just in case. It’s one thing to be willing to take a chance on a guy; it’s another to date them out of a sense of obligation towards an ideal. You aren’t required to date anyone you don’t feel attracted to and you’re especially not obligated to do so just to prove you’re not shallow. Nor, for that matter, does somebody else’s interest in you mean that you have to at least hear them out or go on a date with them. This does you no favors and is actually worse for them when you realize that there isn’t any spark and there never will be.

If you’re going to turn someone down, then the best thing to do is make it as quick and clean as possible. It’s like pulling off a bandage; it’s going to hurt either way, but doing it slowly is going to just prolong things. A quick, sharp pull may hurt, but it’s hurt that’s over quickly. The kindest thing you can do is say “Thank you, but I’m just not interested,” instead of going on a date with them. And if you do go on a date with them, then a simple, “thank you for a lovely time, but this just isn’t going to work for me. Best of luck to you.” is more than sufficient.

Now for your second category of men: unfortunately, you can’t control how other behave… no matter how much you may want to. If someone’s especially determined to be a Nice Guy, there’s not really anything you can do to dissuade them from that. What you can do, however, is maintain some strong boundaries and not give them access to your life. The fact that they have a crush on you doesn’t obligate you to let them be part of your social circle or even give them the time of day. You can cut them out of your life entirely or let them know that you aren’t going to entertain any relationship-y behavior from them; you aren’t interested in their presents, their offers of “help” with convenient strings or even to spend time with them alone. You have the absolute right to decide who you do and don’t spend your time with. If they won’t accept “I’m not interested in you and I never will be,” then you are free to tell them that you’re not interested in seeing them, ever. 

Again, this is the sort of thing that’s best done quickly; the longer you hesitate, the more they will try to insinuate themselves into your life like an especially pernicious virus.

Now your third category is slightly trickier. You have two issues here: your willingness to believe that people you’re into are into you and filtering out the guys who’re just interested in banging. Now, one would think that sheer bloody experience would help with the former. That having been said, I can tell you from experience that it can be difficult to accept that other people are attracted to you. Some self-images are incredibly difficult to shake, regardless of the evidence at hand. At the end of the day, sometimes you have to make the conscious choice to take “yes” for an answer, even if there are parts of your jerk-brain whispering that this can’t possibly be real.

Trying to filter out the ones who are just there for some “wham, bam, thank-you ma’am” is harder. On the one hand, if you’re up for some casual action and it seems like he’d actually be good in bed… well, hey, rock the righteous hell on. But if you’re looking for something more committed… well, that’s where things get slightly trickier. I know some people swear by the proverbial three-date rule, but there’re plenty of cads out there who see three dates as a sufficient investment to hook up with someone.

However, this is an area where boundaries help ward off asshats and opportunists, as much as it chases away Nice Guys. You can let someone know up front that you’re looking for something more committed and you take things slowly as you build trust and intimacy; that’s often enough to wave off  the majority of the casual-sex seekers. Someone who’s only looking for a quick lay isn’t going to want to invest a lot of time and effort; they want something fast and easy. And the nice thing about this is that you aren’t committed to a specific timeframe. If a guy has demonstrated to your satisfaction that he’s a genuinely good guy who’s looking for an actual relationship by the second date… well, there’s no reason why you can’t give him a guided tour of your room.

But to get that far, you have to be willing to give them a chance in the first place. And while it’s understandable that the ambiguity and jerkbrain whispers make you uncomfortable, there really is no reward in dating without risk. If you’re into somebody and you think he maybe into you, then you don’t do yourself any favors by putting things off until it’s too late. You don’t have to jump in head first – whether into bed or into a relationship – but you don’t lose anything except a Friday night by testing the waters.

As for what to do about all those messages blowing up your phone? You have a few options. The first is to set up filters, mutes and blocks; they can keep texting you to their heart’s content but that doesn’t mean you have to see ’em, nevermind respond to them.  Or you could start using a secondary phone number, such as a Google Voice account, for guys who you don’t feel safe giving your primary number to.

But your best option by far is to work on those boundaries I mentioned. Not only will this help keep dudes from getting your number in the first place, but it’ll make it easier for you to tell them “Thank you but I’m not interested, please quit texting me.”

Good luck.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a bit of an ethical dilemma:

A few months ago I met someone online and we clicked. After a few dates she said she wasn’t looking for anything beyond that point as she’d been through some pretty choppy relationship seas before then and I really appreciated her honesty and directness in a world where the slow-fade and ghosting is a thing, my anxious brain appreciates that kind of candor. We both agreed that hanging out was fun and agreed to remain friends and have hung out for coffee and a chat a few times, and it’s been good. I appreciate her friendship.

I now suspect that a few months on she might be considering me differently. I don’t really have any hard evidence of that, just a feeling (my flirting radar doesn’t really work). I’m not one for circling back historically, but I probably would have been open to giving it another go had I been asked and had I not very recently met someone and started seeing them. It’s very, very new and who knows if it will even be a consideration by the time you read this, although I’d like it to be.

I’m not sure if or when I need to tell the first person that I’m seeing someone now. I think we’ve all been in that situation where we were too slow with a crush and see them holding hands with someone and feel our stomachs drop to the floor, so I don’t want to inflict that on anyone, but neither do I want to awkwardly and arrogantly assume she’s feeling something for me that simply isn’t there. This could also be a non-problem – she could be seeing someone for all I know, and I’d be really happy for her, but relationships have never really been in our topics of conversation.

Is there a conversation to be had here?


Paragon or Renegade?

DEAR PARAGON OR RENEGADE: You’re making this more complicated than you need to, PoR. You aren’t dating, you don’t have any commitment to one another or the expectation of anything approaching exclusivity. More to the point, you also don’t actually know that she’s got feelings for you. This is all pure speculation on your part. And then on top of that, you admit that your social radar isn’t the greatest.

So I suspect a lot of this is your reading into things that aren’t strictly there. Which hey, we’ve all been there and done that. It’s a sort of wishful thinking; even if we’re not actively hoping to start a relationship with a person, there’s something validating about knowing they’re into us. Just because you’re not going to the party doesn’t mean that it’s not nice to be invited, after all.

As it is though, not only do you not have an obligation to tell her that you’re dating, but you’re so early in the process that it’s a bit presumptive to say anything at all.

My advice? Leave things well enough alone. If you and your new squeeze last long enough that you reach a point that you’re introducing her to your friends, then you can let your buddy know.

Good luck.

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