DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I am a 26-year-old male who has never had a girlfriend and is a virgin. I realize this might seem weird, but various circumstances (being shy in my teenage years, not feeling ready, being busy with university, etc.) put me into this situation. Also, deep down I might subconsciously have thought “nobody would like someone as me, so why even bother?”
Reading your book and listening to your podcast made me realize that indeed there is a chance for everyone if they are just willing to take it. When 2016 turned to 2017, I made a promise to myself that I would actively make an effort to meet new girls and seek out a girlfriend. I started with Tinder and a few other dating apps and quickly realized that it wouldn’t be easy. I did not expect tons of matches, but nonetheless I had hoped for a bit more.
Using dating apps has been quite stressful, because I get so few matches (maybe a few every second week or so), but THEN it’s not guaranteed that the girls will actually answer me — ghosting has been a big issue for me.
I have tried with various opening lines such as “If you were a superhero, what super powers would you have?”, “If you had a time machine, where would you go?” I even tried out your “Soo … ninjas or pirates”, but only got a few vague responses. It seems so arbitrary. And the waiting part is the worst.
Anyway, since January I have actually managed to get on a date with four girls (just casually walking/talking in a park for a few hours). Since I have never dated anybody before, this is 400% more than I’ve ever done in my entire life, but still, I would have liked to be one more than four dates during these ~8 months since I started. With the first three girls there were no chemistry whatsoever (but hey, I learned a few things about how to date!), but then there were this fourth girl who turned out to be really nice and had a lot of common interests with me. When I walked home, I had a really good feeling. Sadly, when I later texted her saying “thank you for a good date; would you like to meet again?”, she told me that I was a nice guy but she didn’t really feel it. I was devastated, since to me it feel so close to actually have a chance for a real relationship. But knowing about the Oneitis has helped me to move on.
So … I am not sure what actual advice I am seeking other than “hang in there!”. I know that there are other ways to meet women, but I have found that going to clubs and bars is not for me, since I feel a bit awkward at such places, especially if there is loud music. I find it really difficult to casually walk up to a girl and initialize a conversation. It’s way easier for me online.
I have done many things to improve my dating profiles, both with my pictures and my bio text. I have asked for feedback both from friends and strangers online. I also used sites like Photofeeler to get a better idea of my profile pictures (I am maybe slightly-below average-looking). I also went to a forum for women and asked what they thought about my pictures. I was told that I looked like a nice, cute guy — but I looked more like a friend that they would want to hug instead of having a romantic relationship with. As if they can see my inexperience with dating in the way I look.
I never thought that finding a girlfriend would be easy, but I am feeling a bit depressed about the whole situation. I don’t think I am picky or anything; I just want a nice girlfriend who is friendly and wants to share her life with me, maybe travel around a bit, etc. I have tried so many dating apps and websites and the outcome is so minimal that it’s making me sad. The other day I actually thought about making a “Hello, would you date me?” image and share it on Facebook, hoping that somehow I would meet a girl through a common friend or something. I am in a stage where I cannot judge if this seems to desperate and would actually harm me instead.
What should I do?
I Just Want To Date
DEAR I JUST WANT TO DATE: First things first my dude: congratulations! You have made huge leaps to get where you are today and that’s something you should really be proud of. You have, hands down, made progress and gotten to a point that you’d never thought you could before.
So here’s what’s going on: you’re hitting the pain period. This is the point everyone goes through when they’re starting out. You are suddenly, insanely aware of just how awkward you are at this. Like a newborn giraffe, you’re stumbling along on those spindly legs and falling down over and over again. This can be incredibly frustrating; even though intellectually you knew this was all going to take time, there was that part of you that was hoping to hit the ground running. There’s always that dream that, if you just started trying, you’d realize you would discover you had a previously undiscovered talent or superpower and now you’d be a dating phenom.
Unfortunately, while that makes for popular manga tropes and cheesy sports movies… real life doesn’t work that way. You are, for all intents and purposes, building up your social muscles. This means that not only are you NOT going to be lifting the heavier weights right off the bat, but there’s gonna be pain. You’re using muscles you’ve never used before. You’re stretching them out, pushing them past your old limitations. Just as a hard workout means you’re going to be sore the next day, you’re going to be dealing with that mix of unfamiliarity, awkwardness and anxiety that you’re feeling.
But the good news is: this starts to pass. As you get more experience, you start to get more comfortable with the process. As you start to meet more women, you quit focusing so much on The One because you realize that there is no One; as great as that person was, there’re other women out there who’re just as good and who are into what you have to offer. And just as importantly: you start to recognize your own progress and learn from it.
I mean, dude. You’re getting regular matches. Not as many as you might like, true… but you’re getting them pretty consistently. That’s good. That’s a solid start. Same with having gotten some dates. That is also good. That’s progress.
Now here’s what I want you to do. First: pare down the number of apps you’re using. Spreading your attention too far and wide is only going to make you more stressed. You only have so much mental bandwidth, and trying to pay attention to too many things at once just drains it faster. Stick to one or two at most.
Second: now that you’ve got some results, it’s time to A/B test. That is, I want you to change up your profile and see how people respond. Do you get more matches when this photo is your primary online dating photo or this one? Take some new ones – maybe with a professional photographer- and consider the story that your photos tell about you. Highlight and prioritize some areas, and deprioritize others.
You also need to consider what vibe you’re sending. Right now, you’re hearing from a lot of people saying you look like you’re cute, but more “friendly”. Some of that makes me think that you’re still being shy and hesitant and possibly giving off a neediness vibe… especially when you talk about sharing a photo on Facebook like you’re looking for a lost puppy. This is an attitude that’s going to turn women off. People have enough to deal with in their life without taking on the responsibility of managing the self-esteem of someone they don’t know yet.
You need to be willing to be more assertive and confident in your presentation. If you’re hitting the “I want a girlfriend” thing hard, try dialing it back and focusing more on sending a vibe of “I have an awesome life and I want to meet equally awesome people“. You have to believe in your own value when you want people to date you because, frankly, if you don’t, then why should they?
The other thing: stop checking your app constantly. They all have notifications; you’ll know when someone matches with you and when they respond to you. If you’re going to do the online dating thing, you need to take a “fire and forget” approach or you’re going to go insane. Not everyone is going to be online at the same time, nor are they necessarily going to respond to your message immediately. People get busy with life. They get overwhelmed with the messages they’re getting. Hell, sometimes, just getting a message makes them anxious and now they’re trying to work up the guts to respond to you. Sitting with sandwiches by your phone while you’re staring at Tinder like Gatsby staring at the buoy in the bay is going to drive you insane. Swipe a few, message a few, then close the app and go about your day. The messages will be waiting for you when you check back later after doing whatever awesome thing you’re going to be doing that day.
Don’t forget: you’re still starting out, man. You’ve made huge leaps. Don’t get down on yourself because you aren’t ready for the Olympics after your first month of training, ever.
You’ll be fine.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I met this guy two months ago through common friends. He has been texting me ever since everyday. We have great connection and chemistry, but he never asked me out on a date.
He goes to med school and has to work at the hospital 8 hours per day so he’s kind of on a tight schedule but still he manages to make time for his friends and never asks me to come along. Sometimes he meets me wherever I am but never makes the effort to ask me out alone with him. Once I decided to stop talking to him and he sent me a huge text to understand what’s going on and to explain to me that he doesn’t want us to stop talking.
I don’t understand the mixed signals and the lack of effort and I really want him to step up his game because I’m starting to have feelings for him. What should I do in this case? And how can you explain this behavior?
Waiting In The Wings
DEAR WAITING IN THE WINGS: There’re two things that explain his behavior.
First: dude’s in med school. That is going to take up pretty much 99.999% of his time, energy and mental bandwidth. He is being run ragged right now and that’s only going to increase as he graduates and starts interning and becoming a resident. So this means that his time is going to be on a serious premium and he’s going to be extremely careful about how he spends it.
Second: well, I hate to say this, but I don’t think he’s that into you. Don’t get me wrong: he likes you. He likes talking to you. He clearly thinks you’re cool. But there’s nothing about what his behavior that sounds like he’s actually into you on a romantic or sexual level. Men`, for the most part, are going to let you know if they’re interested in dating you. You’re going to run into the shy ones on occasion – especially when you’re dealing with nerds – but a lot of them tend to be proactive. If he’s not trying to make time for the two of you to get together, and is passively coming to see you when you ask?
That’s generally a sign that he’s not feeling the same things you are.
Now if you want to see if it’s a case of cute-but-clueless or sweet-but-shy, then you can call the question. Ask him out on a date – not “hang out”, not “maybe do something”, but a straight-up, explicit, no-way-to-misconstrue-this date. Maybe this’ll be his “come-to-Jesus” moment where he realizes that you’ve been sending signals he’s been missing. Or maybe he’ll have to give you the explicit “let’s just be friends” talk that he’s been trying to just imply up to this point.
Either way, you’ll have your answer. And then you’ll know what you need to do next.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)