Ask Dr. Nerdlove

Why Do I Keep Getting Shut Out?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I was wondering if you had any advice on getting to create one on one time with girls I like and am attracted to, especially when group dynamics and petty drama comes into play.

I’m a pretty nerdy guy but well put together enough that I’m not awkward. Because of this I come across the same problem in most of the nerdy circles I’m in constantly. I get left out or cut out of conversations involving any attractive girl in the group or one of her extended friends. Concurrently, for some events I’m not even invited because I apparently rocked the boat too much or cause a disturbance within the force.

Also for girls in general I sometimes get interrupted by her friends who don’t have anything malicious against me as a person, but I always get stuck with these bulls

t reasons.

1. “You two don’t look good together”

2. “This other guy who I approve of likes her/called dibs first”

3. “I’m jealous of the attention she gets so I’m gonna ruin your time.”

4. “I’m just super nosy and want to know every detail” (I refuse to tell because I value personal conversation and they start getting mad at me)

5. I get interrogated about my personal life even though I tell them I’m uncomfortable talking about my family to a stranger, let alone a massive nosy gossip.

I actually talked to some of my friends (my closer and more honest ones) about this, male and female, concerned if I did something that made them uncomfortable or if I pissed them off by accident.

Most of them literally said that nothing was wrong, but this guy or that guy didn’t like you talking to the girl he liked, so he didn’t want to invite you. Or this girl doesn’t want you there flirting with her friend because she ships her with someone else. Or the more unattractive girl (in my eyes) likes you so she keeps intervening when you talk to her friend. Girls are competitive that way.

Other cases I have had guys try to keep me from meeting a new girl when they try to join the club or social group. Like literal usher them away when they hear I’m nearby and that leaves a bad impression of me. Girls who I meet later tell me they thought I was creepy from the way guys acted around me but actually think I’m pretty nice.

Then soon after the girl at some point disappears because one of the guys pulled nice guy tactics and confess to her. Some of the guys don’t take rejection lightly. (Also, I try contacting them because I usually get her number, but up until that point I realize we never really had much one on one interactions and she is still uncomfortable enough around me that she doesn’t want to hangout one on one.)

Its honestly petty as hell, and it’s difficult for me because we are all single and I’m not trying to be the nuisance in the room. I’ve tried going outside my social circles to date, but I sometimes don’t click with some of the girls I meet and in my search for some common ground to talk about they can tell I’m trying to flirt or get to know them so they are on guard. In comparison to when we have common interests and have a reason to interact with each other because of the club or organization we are in.

But how am I supposed to get a girlfriend and date when I can’t even get much of an opportunity to have a more personal conversation. It feel like a loop because when I ask for a one on one hangout they usually say we haven’t really talked to each other before so they are uncomfortable. And I can’t do that with these nice guys and their nosy friends around.

And don’t get me wrong the guys are overall good people but I dislike they way they go about things and tolerate bulls

t from each other. I try calling things out sometimes and get told to let it go or I’m making a mountain out of a molehill. I can empathize, but I can’t tolerate the crap. What am I supposed to do, lie down and stay quiet until they all get girlfriends?

-Shut Out at the Gate

DEAR SHUT OUT AT THE GATE: I’m not gonna lie, SOatG: your letter falls into the category I call “Not Sure If Bulls

t, Or I’m Just Old”. The idea that people are going to swoop in to blow up your conversation with someone because they ship (a fandom term, meaning “want to see X character have a relationship with Y character”) them with someone else is… well, the sort of thing that I’d expect to find in bad shoujo manga, not real life.  But I was curious, so  I put out the call on the DNL Facebook and Twitter pages to see if anyone else had folks try to blow up their interactions because they shipped that person with someone else. And damned if people didn’t say that they’d had this happened to them before. So apparently this isn’t completely unheard of.

All that having been said, I don’t think that’s your problem. The truth is that while occasionally you’ll get the meddling friend or the person who’s jealous of the attention her friend is getting, those are outliers. They’re the exceptions. When guys get “cockblocked” by a woman’s friends, what has almost always happened is that either she gave the “get me out of here” sign or they could see that she’s uncomfortable and moved in for the rescue. Unless you’re dealing with somebody who escaped from a bad CW show where they only have frenemies, people are usually happy for their friends when they find someone cool to hook up with. At the very least, they’ll let them do their thing because hey, everybody involved is a consenting, grown-ass adult.

It’s also not as though the women you’re talking to have no agency of their own. They’re perfectly capable of giving their friends the wave-off, finding you again and striking up the conversation again or – if necessary – telling their friend to step the hell off and let her conduct her own affairs. The fact that none of these women push back against their friends getting involved or are re-engaging you in conversation later is somewhat telling.

Frankly if this is happening to you every time, then the odds are that you’re setting people’s Spidey-sense tingling. I mean, if you’re consistently getting squeezed out and you’re not getting invited to various events because you’ve caused problems… either you’ve managed to find a group that is nothing but assholes or you’re doing something very wrong. If one person calls you a horse, you met a crazy person. If three people call you a horse, it’s time to do some self-examination. If five people call you a horse, it’s time to consider getting fit for a saddle.

To be blunt, some of the things you describe don’t exactly paint you in a flattering light and it would really be helpful if you’d included some examples. What, exactly, do you mean by valuing personal conversation? What are you saying to people that they get angry at you? Most people aren’t going to blow up at you because you’re not giving every single detail of your existence.

Now I can see some dudes – especially if everyone is young and socially awkward and there’re relatively few women in the group – getting aggressive and s

tty towards a newcomer they might see as a threat. Doubly so if they have an interest in that particular woman. But again, this isn’t just an isolated incident; this is over and over again.

If you were to ask me what you’re doing wrong… well, my first thought would be that somewhere along the lines, you’re triggering people’s creep-dar. It would do you some good to do a check and make sure that you’re not creeping people out by accident; it’s possible that some behaviors that you think are perfectly normal and innocent are coming across in ways that you never intended.

The other thing I suspect is that you’re putting too much emphasis on trying to get people alone. If you’re the dude at the party or the Meetup or the gathering who’s always trying to get someone to come with him somewhere else, folks are going to look askance. I get that you’d prefer having some privacy but the truth is that when you’re meeting people in social venues like parties or get-togethers, then you’re going to have to be able to handle groups. Part of how you avoid getting squeezed out by her friends is by winning them over. You don’t need to be their new BFF, but you do want to show them that you’re a good guy. If they feel like you’re someone cool – in the sense of “oh yeah, Shut Out At The Gate, he seems cool” – then they’re not going to treat you like a threat. Plus, by focusing on the group as a whole instead of giving all of your attention to the woman you’re interested in, you don’t come off as someone who’s only there to hit on people.

And here’s a tip: you don’t need actual privacy to get one-on-one time with someone. You can get effective privacy by simply positioning yourself so that you (or your new person of interest) have your back turned to the group. This way you feel like you’re in your own separate conversation without having to pull her away. This means that you feel like you have more privacy, while her friends don’t worry that you’ve dragged her off to a dark corner for nefarious purposes.

But honestly, dude, I think the people you need to talk to are some of the folks in the group, not your friends. They’re the ones who know the dynamics more than your buds do and hopefully they’ll be able to give you more of a low-down on just what exactly is going on.

In the meantime though: start working on that self-examination and self-awareness. The sooner you start getting an idea where things are going wrong, the sooner you’ll be able to fix it.

Good luck.

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: About 6 months ago, I started dating a woman I’ll call M. She is amazing–a fellow gamer, funny as hell, smart and sexy. Pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted or dreamed of in a girl! We have a blast when we’re together (which is most of the time–she even spends most nights at my apartment, to the point that people assume we live together) and life is awesome with her.

The problem is that we’re not exclusive. Or, to be more accurate, we ARE exclusive, but she won’t say so. Neither of us are seeing anyone else, and we both admit that we don’t have any desire to see anyone else, but she doesn’t want to label us as a serious relationship. I’ve met her family and I’ve met her friends, and she always says we’re dating but phrases it in a very casual way. I don’t feel casual about her, and based on how she acts and the things she says to me, she’s in the same boat, but she’s adamant that we are not a committed couple.

(P.S., in case anyone wonders, she’s not trying to string me along or hide me from another relationship or from her friends–everyone knows we’re together and she has no problem saying that we’re dating. It’s just that she keeps putting the “casual” disclaimer on it.)

A couple of months after we got together, I manned up and used my words to ask about this, and she told me that she wasn’t ready for a committed relationship because she was still working through her grief over the death of her twin sister, J, a year before we got together. I knew both M and J at the time, although we weren’t close then–mutual friends, ended up at the same events sometimes because of that, etc. J was killed by a drunk driver, and M (understandably) took it very hard. When I talked to her about the exclusivity thing, she said that she and J had always planned to do everything together, including having a double wedding extravaganza when they fell in love, and that they had a pact that if one of them got engaged first, they had to wait to get married until the other one got engaged too so they could fulfill their dream of the double wedding. M said that she felt like moving forward with a serious relationship felt like leaving J behind and betraying her, and I told her I understood and that she could take her time.

So fast forward to now. I want to marry this girl, but I’m completely okay with the fact that she may never want to have a wedding because that would feel disloyal to J. However, I don’t know if I can deal with a future where I’m with her for years and can’t even introduce her as my girlfriend without her getting antsy about the label.

I know the death of a sibling (especially an identical twin) is devastating and you never really get over it, so I’m not trying to argue that she should just forget about J and start wedding dress shopping. I just want a little bit more relationship security than I have right now, and if she’s still not ready for that… I just need to know that she might one day be comfortable calling us a couple instead of just two people who are casually banging. I want to have the Relationship Talk with her again, but how can I phrase the conversation so it doesn’t seem like I’m trying to put a timeline on her grief for her sister?


One Half of a Double Wedding

DEAR ONE HALF OF A DOUBLE WEDDING: Wait, hang on. Before I get to your letter, I need to make sure I understand this: whichever of them got engaged first was going to have to wait until her sister also was engaged? That is some Taming of the Shrew/10 Things I Hate About You crap right there.


Grief can be a messed up thing, OHDW, and it hits people in weird and unpredictable ways. And no matter what guidelines people will give you, it’s almost impossible to gauge how long grief will last or when it will quit wrecking your life. To quote Neil Gaiman: some days, the fact of their absence will hit you like a blow to the chest. This is never more true than with siblings, especially twins. While not every set of twins are super-close, in many cases, being a twin feels less like a “me” and more like a “we”, especially when they’re identical. Part of their identity is that they’re a matched set. They’re not the same person in two bodies but the overlap can be significant, even when their personalities can be radically different.

Losing J – especially such a sudden and tragic loss – wasn’t just losing a friend or a sister, it’s like losing a part of herself. It’s almost like waking up to discover that you no longer have a limb or that half of your entire life is gone. It’s bad enough she lost her sister and closest friend; now she’s having to confront a literal existential crisis. Who IS M, now that J is gone?

I’m not surprised that she’s clinging so tightly to that dream they had of a double wedding. It’s a way of holding on to this piece of J, a way of feeling like she’s still close to her. The way M feels about leaving J behind are incredibly common in people who are grieving. Lots of people will say that they don’t want to move on for fear that they’re somehow leaving their loved one behind or forgetting them. Widows and widowers feel like dating or loving someone else would be a betrayal of their spouse. Kids frequently resent when their parents start to date again because they think it’s a betrayal of the dead parent’s memory.

But here’s the thing: that feeling passes. Grief feels like it will last forever – and there will always be a part of the griever that feels that loss – but it does ease as time goes by. It can’t rain all the time, after all. So yes, I feel safe in saying that the time will come when she won’t feel like being happy and having a loving relationship is betraying the memory of her sister. There will come a time when she feels like she can say she’s in a relationship, actually call you her boyfriend and talk about possibly having a relationship together.

What I can’t say is “when”. And to be honest, nobody can because grief isn’t linear. There isn’t this steady progression of “feeling a little better every day”. Some days you feel almost normal and then the next day the loss hits you so hard that you can’t get out of bed. Sometimes that will happen in the same day. She may try to push through things and say she’s ready before she actually is. She may think she’s ready and then regress. It’s maddening and it’s frustrating and it’s messy and chaotic, but that’s life.

I know: it’s frustrating. But the day will come if you’re patient and you’re there for her when she needs you. For now, just let her know: this is something that you want, and you hope that there’ll be a time when she feels comfortable with the idea that the two of you are in a relationship. Then let it go. Pushing her isn’t going to make her get over the loss of her sister any sooner… but pushing too hard will make her decide that she’s not ready for any kind of relationship right now.

Good luck.

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