Ask Dr. Nerdlove

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m in a position where at some point soon, I’m going have to move far away due to work. As a result, I can’t really be in a relationship. However, I still want to have sex, so I’m looking for friends with benefits arrangements. I have explicitly stated in my OKC and Tinder profiles that that’s what I want, but I have no idea how to do more than that. How would I even bring up the idea without being seen as creepy?

No Strings On Me

DEAR NO STRINGS ON ME: There are two key components to finding a friends-with-benefits relationship, NSOM. The first is, ultimately, a marketing issue: finding people who might be interested and getting your message out to them in an appealing manner.

Trying to achieve this can be tricky. It may seem like a no-brainer to say “hey, I’m only looking for FWBs” on OKCupid and Tinder… and then you spend time watching the tumbleweeds blow through your empty inbox, wondering just what’s wrong. When you’re out looking for a simple, casual relationship, it can feel like you could count the number of potential partners on the fingers of one foot. This often goes hand in hand with the maxim of “women don’t like casual sex”, often reinforced by bros doing “social experiments” on YouTube to prove the point.

The truth is that there are a lot of people out there who’re looking for casual sex or no-strings attached relationships, NSOM, both men and women. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of asshats who’ve all but guaranteed that women are going to never respond to guys who are looking for one. Women on dating sites will be deluged with offers of sex, regardless of what they say they’re looking for in their profiles; women who indicate that they’re looking for a casual or NSA relationship will be hit with a veritable tsunami of free-floating wiener. Whether you’re standing around with a megaphone announcing “My body is available, please form a queue!” or approaching women – in person or online – with an offer of NSA sex, then you’re just one more voice in the chorus of the damned.

So while you’re being clear and upfront – and presumably respectful – in your profile by announcing what it is you’re looking for, the problem is that far too many dudes have poisoned that particular well and even women who might be interested are likely to pass you by, just because they’ve been burned too many times before.

This ties ties into the second component: you need to demonstrate that sex with you will be worth that person’s time. As writer Alana Massey famously said: “C

k is abundant and of low value”; there is no lack of dudes offering to be a woman’s Studly Goodnight at a moment’s notice. The problem is that pretty much all of them suck in bed, and most of them will call her a slut and a whore afterwards. There are multitudes of women out there who would appreciate a casual relationship with a guy – easy companionship, occasional sloppy make-outs and no real expectations of future plans – but the risks involved just aren’t worth the lousy sex that would result.

So your approach has to be two-fold. First: fine tune your profiles. Were I you, I’d leave explicit mentions about FWBs out. You can send the message of what it is you are looking for without hitting that particular NOPE button. To start with, you should pick the “short term dating” option on OKCupid; not only is that literally true in your case – you’re moving at some point, so you aren’t up for anything long-term – but most people will (correctly) assume you’re talking about a more casual, less committed relationship.

Think of the story your dating profile tells – are you telling the story of a man looking for that special someone to settle down with and find that house in the suburbs with the white picket fence? Or are you someone who’s on the move, who isn’t putting down roots and wants to find someone who’s on the same page? The way you fill out your profile questions contributes to this; are you painting a picture of someone who’s potentially husband material or as someone whose lifestyle is fun but more high-speed, low drag?  Are your pictures lining up with those goals? Are they showing a guy who’s out having adventures? Or are they cozy and domestic – showing you playing with your cute niece or nephew, cooking in the kitchen, hanging out with your sweet Grandma?

The same goes with your Tinder profile. Are you talking about yourself and the kind of person you’re looking to meet, or do you have something short, funny and pithy? The former tends to imply relationship, the latter is slightly more indicative of someone not looking for Mrs. Right. “I have strong opinions about breakfast tacos” or “Living for pinball and margaritas,” often work far better than “I’m not looking for anything serious”, which has come to mean “I never want to actually define what that means as long as it keeps you coming around.”

Crafting your profile this way will not only help you find people who’re more likely to be on the same page as you, but will also mean that your likely to actually go on dates; you won’t be giving off the Douchebag Alert that drives women away before they have a chance to get to know you.

And going on dates is going to be important, because this will be how you build the connection with your potential FWBs. First, you’ll be doing your dating due diligence – testing for chemistry and interest – after all, the last thing you want is to be meeting women who just don’t rev your motor. You’ll also be in a position to build the sexual tension and chemistry that will tell women that yes, you would be fun in the sack. But most importantly, you’ll be able to show that while you’re a great potential lay, you’re also a gentleman. One of the most important – and sadly neglected – aspects of trying to find a casual relationship is creating a sense of safety and respect.

One of the biggest reasons why guys have a hard time finding casual sex is that they tend to focus on the short term, immediate goal: get her into bed as soon as humanly possible. They want to bang that night, if not sooner. As a result, they often push too hard, too quickly and ultimately snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. A woman who might have said “yes” on the second or third date will almost certainly say “no” to a guy who can’t be patient. That impatience is frequently a sign that he’s more concerned with getting laid than he is about her comfort or sense of security. The best and most successful lovers out there are the ones who create a space where women feel safe and empowered to say yes, rather than badgering her to give in.

It’s on these dates, incidentally, that you have the chance to lay out what it is that you have to offer. You can make it clear that you’re going to have to move in the not-too-distant future and so any relationship with you will come with an expiration date. This knowledge will help filter out matches who are going to be looking for something longer-term. Just as importantly, it sets expectations accordingly: you may be a good friend and a great time, but you’re not boyfriend material. For many women, this is ideal; it’s some short term fun without the expectation of demands on her time or independence. Just be sure that the dates you go on are the fun, exciting type, not the “isn’t it romantic?” type; it’s easy to end up sending mixed signals if you’re essentially dating on automatic.

But you can’t just rely on subtext; you are going to have to have a Defining The Relationship talk with any potential partners. After all, a casual relationship is a relationship. So too is a FWB relationship. You want to make sure that both of you are on the same page and that you both have the same expectations and definitions as one another.

And don’t forget: just because you’re moving doesn’t mean that you can’t have a relationship with long-term potential. If a long-distance relationship isn’t your bag, then hey, that’s cool too… just don’t artificially limit yourself because you assume that anything you start now can’t last beyond moving day.

Good luck.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I recently started a new job. When I was going through the intake process, I hit it off with the person who explained everything to me. We have similar interests and she seems to enjoy my sense of humor. Since then we’ve become very fast friends. We have in depth conversations about who we are as people, and just seeing how we’re alike and different. Not surprisingly, I soon caught feelings.

As we’ve been talking, she mentioned she recently ended a bad relationship. Because of that, she’s working on herself and thinking about what she wants in a partner. I am fine with only being friends, she’s just that great to be around, without trying to backdoor that into something more. 

So I don’t have a particular overabundance of experience, but I do know that making a big showy confession about how I feel is exactly the wrong thing to do.

The options I see are:

a) Tell her how I feel, let her know any response is fine, and that there is no pressure to change what she’s doing for me.

b) Not tell her and stay friends. Then start looking at other people for potential partners.

I appreciate any advice you might be able to offer.

Secret Crush

DEAR SECRET CRUSH: I’m generally opposed to the idea of  “tell X person you have a crush on them” because, frankly, it’s kind of passive.

“Hey, I’ve got a crush on you.” OK… and? What do you expect them to do, now that they have this knowledge? The feelings-confession, no matter how sincere or heartfelt, tends to put the onus on the other person to take the next step, which is a bit of a dick move. This is why I generally advise people to skip the confession step and move directly to ASK THEM OUT ON A DATE ALREADY. The “I’m interested in you,” tends to be implied when you’re asking somebody out on a clear and unambiguous date. It’s baked into the whole process; one rarely goes out on dates with people they’re not interested in.

Now in terms of your specific situation, I think the best move in this case is to be friends and date around. If she’s telling you that she’s just out of a recent relationship and “working on herself”, then she’s giving you the wave-off. Either she can tell you’ve got a crush on her, or she’s pre-emptively letting you know that she’s just not down with dating you, just in case. Regardless: it’s a pretty clear sign that she’s not feeling it and your time and emotional energy will be spent pursuing people who are available.

Good luck.

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