DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a woman in my early twenties. I work in a small office and go to classes at night to educate myself further. In the little free time I have I am active in a political organization and have a quite high rank there. On weekends I go out with friends because I am easily bored so I always try to busy myself with exciting activities instead of suffering from cabin fever. My interests are politics, culture (including nerd culture of course), traveling, food, etc. Pretty much the only things I can’t get into are sports. I do cardio and go for a run to keep in shape but other than that I really don’t care for the subject matter.
Knowing about my busy schedule you might have figured that my dating life is not really that great. I do have occasional hook ups but other than that it’s nothing but me, myself and I…
I consider myself an attractive woman, I am confident, I have a wide range of interests and I hold high ambitions. So why can’t I find a keeper?
A friend of mine once told me that some guys don’t approach me because my confidence is intimidating and guys like shy girls better. I have no problem with approaching guys and start flirting but some of their egos seem to be too fragile to handle women who take matters in their own hands. Also I was told that I’m too talkative or sassy or feminist or independent or bitchy or opinionated by guys online. And that is really infuriating and also a bit hurtful.
The only guys that seemingly can keep up with my attitude are “jocks” but those relationships fail because of our different interests.
I don’t blame the guys for not wanting to date me. It’s their decision and if I am not what they are looking for then by all means they should find happiness with the right girl.
But all that stuff leaves me wondering… am I too much? Should I change to be more appealing? Should I pretend to be shy and reveal certain aspects of my personality only after some time has passed? Or am I good the way I am and it’s just a matter of not having found the right kind of person yet?
Those concerns sound so unreasonable but I guess I’m just a little uncertain at the moment… I hope you can give me some advice.
Too Much Intimidation?
DEAR TOO MUCH INTIMIDATION: Your problem is a common one, TMI. A lot of women, especially women in their mid 20s who are confident and accomplished, have problems finding men who’re interested in more than a hook-up. In fact, that’s a core issue in Jenna Birch’s book The Love Gap: guys are out their saying they want to find someone who’s ambitious, confident and accomplished… yet they aren’t dating the women out there who meet those standards.
In fact, many of them are doing the opposite.
Part of this is that yes, to some men, the fact that you have so much going on in your life is going to be a turn-off. There are a lot of men who see attention and career achievement as a zero-sum game. Only one of you can really go on to succeed, and at the end of the day… they’re going to choose themselves because men are supposed to be the high-achievers. A woman who’s equally – if not more – successful than they are can feel threatening, even emasculating.
The same goes for women who are confident and forward. If a woman, for example, responds to a compliment with anything other than deflecting or downplaying the compliment, she’s often seen as arrogant. A simple “Thanks!” instead of “oh no, you’re just saying that…” tends to rile up men because she’s not following along with the script. Women, after all, aren’t supposed to be aware that they’re attractive.
And if a woman flaunts gender roles and takes the part of the aggressor instead of passively waiting… well, a lot of guys really don’t respond well to that.
Some of this is societal; those gender roles are still very much in force, even in the 21st century.But some of it is about maturity and how men tend to progress. One of the reasons why women in your position have a hard time finding guys who they work with is because those guys are still in development. Women tend to treat development like a web – working on several aspects of their life at once. Men tend to be lasers, taking things one at a time in order: first they want to develop their careers THEN they’re ready to date. Part of the problem here is that those guys tend to pass up on women they later turn around and realize they shouldn’t have passed up on.
This, incidentally, is why many women will find exes coming back, hat in hand years down the line. They weren’t ready then and didn’t realize what they had. Now that they do, they’re hoping the window hasn’t closed too firmly.
Once you understand where some of these issues come from, TMI, it becomes a question of “what do you do about it?” I mean, yes, you could always try to tone down your personality or pretend to be someone you’re not in order to get a boyfriend. But I question the wisdom in that; the guy who can’t handle you now isn’t likely to be any better able to do so when he finds out that you’ve been hiding a part of yourself. In fact, it’s more likely to cause problems… messily and all over the place.
And then there’s the fact that you likely aren’t going to like guys who prefer the softer, more submissive version of you. That’s fundamentally not who you actually are, and that conflict between who you are and who you’re putting forth is going to cost you a lot of emotional energy and a string of incompatible boyfriends.
It may well be that your best option is to wait, while guys play catch up and try to get on your level. Or to wait and see if you can find someone who matches up with you now.
Now one thing I will say is maybe reconsider on some of those jocks. The fact that they’re jocks doesn’t mean that they can’t also be nerds; most sports nuts are just nerds in different clothing. And as I’m always telling guys: your interests don’t need to match up perfectly for the two of you to work; they just need to mesh well enough. Even if you two don’t share the same interests, can you try exploring the others’? Can you respect their interests and can they respect yours?
That’s a question only you can answer, MIT. But while the waiting may be frustrating… it’s still better than trying to force yourself into the wrong personality like you’re trying to force yourself into shoes that don’t fit. Finding the right partner can take time, but in the end, it’s worth it.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My friend B [26F] has rotten luck with men. Some of it is her own doing with her unrealistic expectations of men and some of it appears to be what she’s attracted to.
B has had a thing for 50+ year old men with money for the past 5 years. These men are typically emotionally abusive, ignore her for weeks on end forcing her to chase them, don’t allow her to meet their friends or family, and string her along with promises for more. She typically portrays herself to be a take no bullshit type of person, but as soon as she gets involved with one of these men, all of that goes completely out of the window.
Last time I tried to bring this up to her, she threw it in my face that I’m married and don’t understand her loneliness – and that very well may be true. While I don’t understand what being that lonely is like, I do recognize really poor romantic decisions, and dating guys who make no time for you, force you to always come to them (literally, she dated a guy who forced her to fly once a month for a year to a completely different country and never even tried to visit her in her home city or meet her family, and the only time he actually supposedly attempted the trip, he missed his flight and makeup flights for two weeks straight).
I’m worried about her – these guys that she’s been seeing aren’t up to any good, don’t treat her with any respect, and she either intentionally or unintentionally ignores the signs of emotional abuse and manipulation and makes excuses for their misbehavior. I don’t know how to talk to her about this, but she’s coming up to stay with me in a couple weeks to meet another guy that’s she’s been talking to for three months and she doesn’t even know his last name. Do you have any recommendations for how I can approach this situation with her in a way that doesn’t end up imploding our otherwise great friendship?
On The Sidelines
DEAR ON THE SIDELINES: One of the problems with love is that love’s not just blind, it also tends to put its fingers in its ears and yell “LALALALALALALALALALALA” at the top of it’s lungs.
This is never more evident than when you’re watching a good friend about to go down with the HMS Douchebag for the third time in a row.
It’s all the more frustrating because, honestly, there’s really not much you can do. Your friend is a grown woman. She’s got agency and the right to make her own choices. The fact that they’re stupid choices doesn’t change that.
The problem is that if you just straight up try to make her see what’s going on and that she’s been riding the jackass train for years, then all that’s going to happen is that she’s going to dig her heels in and double down. Nobody appreciates being told that the guy they’re currently sweating is the latest in a long line of asshats who’s going to chew her up and spit her out, just like the previous dude in the jackass conga line did.
This makes confronting her tricky, because you don’t want her to just ignore you and mess up even harder. The best thing you can do, especially in the wake of yet another car crash, is to sit down with her and try to get her to realize what’s going on. First, you have to see if you can get her to recognize that these relationships were toxic. Exploring the ways that these relationships have been bad for her may help her start to recognize the pattern.
It may also help to work out just why she’s dating these wastes of skin. There’s clearly a common denominator in these relationships besides douchebaggery; there’s something about these guys that appeals to her. Maybe these guys just so amazing in bed that she’s willing to put up with the rest of it. But the more that the two of you can zero in on why she picks these guys in particular, the more that you can hopefully nudge her in a different direction.
But then again, you could also lay all this out for her and still get nowhere. You can lead someone to clues, but you can’t make them think.
Of course, that all presumes that the common denominator isn’t just her and her damage. There’s every possibility that she has her own emotional issues that leave her feeling like she deserves to be treated this way. And if that’s the case… well, just as she’s the one making those choices, she’s also the one who has to fix things. You can’t force someone into emotional health; they have to decide that. And this is one of the areas where Alcoholics Anonymous gets it right: some folks have to hit rock bottom before they change. And the only thing concerned friends can do is to try to help them limp to the ER afterwards and hope that maybe this time they’ll learn to avoid cliffs.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)