DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I seem to walk two different roads with ladies these days. The first is in a casual, social setting. If I meet a girl I’m interested in, we seem to hit it off. The conversation will be good, flirtation back-and-forth is fun, and there definitely is a chemistry between the two of us. This will either end in an exchange of info or (rarely, but fun) spending the night with each other. I’m really in my element here and enjoy the easygoing nature of meeting someone and having a nice time.
The speed bump I seem to hit is when I ask that same girl on a date. That’s where I am struggling. The easygoing chemistry seems to evaporate and it goes from two people enjoying time with each other to an interview. While the time we had in the social setting was flirtatious, the energy in the date is significantly less so. After one or two dates, I can really pick up on her cues: she just isn’t interested.
I’ve noticed some negative trends that I seem to repeat in a lot of these situations. I don’t go on that many dates, so the people I do date are the ones I really would like to spend more time with. This inevitably leads to a lot of anticipation, nerves, and projecting my hopes onto this person. This is sure to lead to some disappointment, so I am trying to maturely manage these feelings more effectively.
Also, I’m a very outgoing guy. As much as I want to be the cool guy, I just am not. This is okay with me, though. I’m very happy with who I am. I do ask the question though: am I coming on too strong? Do I look like a loser here? I’m going easy, should I tone it down even more?
I sense that I am missing something in these situations. How do I maintain attraction with these ladies through the first few dates and start to connect more? Is the energy I bring from the social setting to the date different enough that it throws these girls off?
At 25, I have time to navigate these waters, but I need to figure this out before I completely jump ship.
Without a Paddle
DEAR WITHOUT A PADDLE: You answered your own question here, WaP:
“This inevitably leads to a lot of anticipation, nerves, and projecting my hopes onto this person.”
The reason why you’re having such an easy time when things are casual is because it’s so low stakes. It’s so much easier and natural for you because hey, there’s no investment here. You haven’t put yourself in a position where you feel as though you’ve tied your own value to whether they like you or not. Instead, you’re able to just be in the moment. Everything is light and easy and enjoyable because hey, the worst thing that happens is that she’s not into you and you move on to find someone else who is.
It’s the moment that you ask her out on a date – with a giant capital “D” in gothic script – that it all falls apart. In that moment, you’ve gone from having an enjoyable back and forth with an attractive stranger to “everything must go perfectly.” Suddenly you’ve invested this relative stranger with such immense importance in your life that you feel as though you have to be perfect in order to get her to like you. It doesn’t matter that she’s exactly the same person she was five minutes before you asked her out to dinner. It doesn’t matter that she was clearly enjoying her time with you before, when you had no skin in the game. Now you know this boogie is for real and you’d better nail it.
But literally nothing has changed. The only thing that’s different is your perception. It’s not as though saying the magic words “hey, would you like to get a drink this Saturday?” caused lightning to crash from the heavens and now the woman you’ve been low-key flirting with has turned into Captain Future Wife. And yet, you’re starting to project so much onto this relative stranger that you’ve allowed her to damage your own self-worth… despite the fact that you may not have known she existed 24 hours ago.
So now there’re stakes (that you made up) and you’re stuck with what’s known as the Centipede’s Dilemma; you didn’t have any problem coordinating all those feet until you started to think about how you did it. Now you’re trying to consciously recreate that easy-going chemistry and charisma you had before and suddenly your brain has gone blank. You’re trying to get that scintillating banter to happen and your mouth is all “Daaaaaaw how do words go?”
And again: the only reason why there’s this dramatic difference is because your perception of the situation has changed.
Fortunately, that also means that it’s relatively easy to change things back. The trick is to simply demystify and de-emphasize the importance of this date. Your going on a formal DATE with her is exactly the same as if the two of you decided to grab a drink in the moment. It’s no different than the same steps that lead towards the two of you deciding that you’d like to take this party back to your place. The only difference is that it may be on a different night, instead of right then and there.
First: remind yourself that this person already likes you. While this may come as a surprise, most women aren’t going on dates with people they’re not at least somewhat attracted to. The fact that she’s decided to commit an hour or more of her busy life to doing something with you is an indicator that she thinks you’re pretty damn nifty and wants to see what else might be there.
Second: remember that she’s the exact same person that she was before you asked her out on a date. All that unbounded potential that you see in her now was already there when you were chatting her up. Literally nothing about her has changed.
Third: remember that by that same token, if for whatever reason things don’t work out between the two of you? Then literally nothing changes for you. Your status quo is exactly the same as it was before. You just realized that you weren’t going to connect with this person in the way that would’ve made a relationship possible. And while that’s a shame, in the words of Tim Minchin:
“But of the 9.999 hundred thousand other possible loves, statistically, some of them would be equally nice.”
You already know that; it’s part of why you don’t have a minor freak out when those strangers you casually flirt with just don’t dig you.
So my dude, just keep your cool here. Don’t let the D-word intimidate you into thinking that this person is anything she wasn’t five seconds before you asked her out. Consider that date as just an extension of the easygoing nature of that back and forth the two of you were enjoying earlier. The energy you were bringing before is what they were digging about you, so keep it going. You don’t have to radically shift gears to make that connection work. Keep talking, keep flirting and just keep it casual as you get to know her. That deeper connection will come if you stop trying to force it and let it flow as naturally as you had been up until now.
You already have the skills to make this happen, WaP. You just need to get out of your own way.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have been stuck in a very messy situation with my partner (for our purposes, let’s call him X).
We have been dating for almost 2 years and he is an absolute darling. In fact, I can’t even picture myself with anybody else. He is charming, loving, understanding… He makes me feel alive in a too often dim world.
The catch? He has an identical twin brother (let’s call him Z). At first this wasn’t a problem at all. In our first few months together, the three of us were unstoppable. Z became my best friend. Everything was perfect… Until Z got a girlfriend. I tried to support their relationship, but for some reason she kept on stabbing me in the back. She’s acted in absurd ways: spreading false rumors, trying to convince X that I’m cheating and even going so far as to forbid Z to so much as greet me.
This has lead to things getting bad between me and X. Because of the close bond X and Z had, ignoring the “girlfriend” wasn’t an option. I tried everything – from trying to befriend her, to talking to Z. Nothing worked. More than a year has passed and I know that I can’t take it anymore. I know that the negativity she brought into my life was too much for me to handle. But I also know, for as long as I’m with X it won’t end. I don’t know if I’m willing to let go of someone who compliments me, makes me happier than I deserve to be and who’s always knew me better than I know myself. In fact, to think about it, every major fight we had was because of Z and his girlfriend…
WHAT DO I DO?
Stuck In the Middle
DEAR STUCK IN THE MIDDLE: Here’s a question for you, SItM. Statistics being what they are, I’m going to assume that you’re a Harry Potter fan. So let us imagine that Fred and George have both started new relationships. And while George’s relationship has been going as smooth as can be, Fred’s is considerably more turbulent because, for whatever, reason, Fred’s girlfriend has decided she’s not cool with George dating a Muggle-born. But because she can’t just make demands based on Wizard purity – the Weasleys are famously pro-Muggle after all – she decides that the best thing to do would be to wage a whisper-campaign. George’s girlfriend is awful. She’s a harlot who’s only after that sweet, sweet, prank-shop money. And now because of this toxic atmosphere, things are getting tense between George, Fred and everyone else.
But now, consider. Who, do you think, is ultimately going to have more influence over Fred: George… or Fred’s girlfriend of a year? After all, while family dynamics can vary and sex has a way of making people blind to people’s faults, there’s a bond between twins that’s incredibly deep and profound. They know each other better than anyone else, have been through the fires together and know good and well that no matter what else happens, they have each other.
If George were to tell Fred that his girlfriend has turned into a drama-bomb that’s messing up their happy family… how long do you think it’s going to take before Fred’s girlfriend is going to get pranked until she finally gets the hint and leaves?
The same thing applies with you, X and Z, SItM. You’ve tried talking to Z. You’ve tried talking to Z’s girlfriend.
But you don’t mention whether you’ve talked with X about the two of them.
Here’s the problem: as inseparable a trio as you may have been before Z+1 came along, you don’t have as much influence with Z as they do. Z’s girlfriend is his girlfriend. It’s understandable that she’s going to have more sway with him, especially if he’s in full “When A Man Loves A Woman” mode.
But X is Z’s twin brother. That trumps a whole lotta other stuff. And you are X’s girlfriend.
I hope you see where I’m going with this.
You’ve tried confronting the issue head on. You’ve gone straight to the source, and you’ve tried to talk it out with Z. Your influence with them is just not enough to beat this particular trial. But X’s is. If you can help X to realize just how much garbage Z’s girlfriend is stirring up, how much strife is because she’s the one dripping poison in everyone’s ear, then it’ll be X who’s having that conversation with Z about just how toxic his girlfriend is being.
And that’s the key here: as awful as Z’s girlfriend is being to you, her behavior is a pretty serious sign that she’s awful for Z too. And while X may not see her rumor mongering and dirty tricks campaign against you, he very well may be more sensitive to someone treating his brother like garbage and being an jerk to his own girlfriend.
It sucks that things have reached the point where you have to play “Let’s You And Him Fight”. I find the idea of having to play these sorts of games in relationships to be distasteful. But you’ve already taken the direct approach. Z isn’t listening to you and his girlfriend isn’t going to be happy unless she’s the only woman in the group. The best thing you can do is to talk to X, show him this pattern of behavior and get him to intercede. Not on your behalf – though it will certainly help – but on his brother’s.
Frame this as concern for Z – just as she’s framing her mud-slinging as concern for X – and you’ll be in a stronger position to make things happen.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)