DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I started dating in my early twenties and in that time I learned a lot about who I gel with and who to stay the hell away from. However one thing that I noticed was a common theme:
I kept dating people I wasn’t really attracted to.
I felt that I had to “learn and practice” dating with people I didn’t have much interest and that I had to be “good” at it before going for who I really wanted to date. Mostly because whenever I meet someone I’m really attracted to, I always screw it up, get oneitis, self-sabotage, and don’t know how to fix it. It feels like the universe conspires to make sure I don’t get what I want and that I don’t deserve it (which is confusing because it’s not like I’m asking for much or anyways. Just someone who is into books, deep conversations, and is on the nerdier and curvier side of physical looks. I really don’t care if someone is “hot” or “smokin” in the looks department). I think those are fair standards right?
I see my types all over the place so “scarcity” shouldn’t be an issue. If I mess up I can just try again. But the problem is that everything feels out of reach for me and that I have to settle for people I am not attracted to (despite having interests in common for friendship which is nice, but I am looking for something more than just friends.) I never have these problems with people I’m not attracted to, but I’ll have sex with them anyways to get my sexual needs met, and then I feel bad for not giving them my full undivided interest and attention when it comes to dating and then I eventually just fade things off.
Is finding sexual partners I want really just a never ending mirage?
DEAR LOWERED EXPECTATIONS: I love it when people ask me questions that can be answered in one word: No.
Wait, you probably want more than that, huh?
Here’s your issue in a nutshell, LE: you don’t believe you deserve to date someone you’re attracted to. All of the setbacks you describe: self-sabotage, Oneitis, etc? That’s not the universe conspiring against you, LE, that’s you kneecapping yourself. You believe at some level that because you aren’t worthy of dating someone you’re actually attracted to, that you’re going to inevitably get hurt, so instead you blow your chances before they even start; after all, can’t get hurt if you never have a shot in the first place, right?
This also leads to the people you are dating. You feel as though you’re unworthy of the people you’re actually interested in, so you pursue folks who are “safe”; you know that you don’t care about them that much, so there’s no real emotional risk for you. You get your itch scratched with minimal investment on your end; thus, when things fall apart, it’s no great loss to you.
But, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, there a few problems with this outlook. The first is simple: you may be getting laid, but it sure as hell ain’t satisfying. In fact, I suspect that sex with your recent parters feels more like masturbation. Hell, it’s possibly not actually as worthwhile as masturbation; at least that’s sex with someone you love. And I imagine you have noticed that being with these partners – the ones you’re not attracted to – feels almost lonelier than actually being by yourself.
And then there’s the fact that this is pretty damn cruel to the people who have emotionally invested in you. After all, they deserve to have a partner who’s actually into them, just as much as they’re into you, no?
You need to start believing in your own worth, LE. You said it yourself: it’s not as though the people you’re into are an especially rare resource or thin on the ground. You’re well aware that, should things not work out, there will be other chances for you out there. The thing isn’t that these people are out of your reach, it’s that you won’t let yourself try. It’s not even that you’re making the attempt and failing; you’ve already decided that you’ve failed before you’ve even started.
If you want to actually start dating people you’re into, then you need to take them off the pedestal and – more importantly – stop letting your fears and self-limiting beliefs hold you back.
To quote Oscar Wilde: shoot for the moon; even if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My question my seem silly – a few people I’ve talked to certainly told me as much — but I really need some advice here and I figured you may be more objective than friends and family.
A few background info – I am a 30 years-old man that has never been in a relationship before. However, a little more than a year ago, after putting in practice a lot of your tips, I met an amazing woman (let’s call her V) and we’ve immediately clicked. We’ve been dating seriously for a year now and things have been going swimmingly – except for one big problem.
See, V has recently started talking about moving in with me. This make sense, since I’m was planning to moving to a larger apartment anyway next year. However, I have a cat, and V is allergic. In light of this, I was willing to live separately for a while until I don’t have a cat anymore (a terrible prospect I don’t want to think about, but know is inevitable). However, my cat is 10 years old and healthy, and thus he could easily live another decade (fingers crossed). V has made it clear that she isn’t willing to wait that long, and that she wasn’t interested in having a “local long-distance relationship,” as she calls it. She also made it clear that, while she puts up with allergy medication when she visits me, she would not take pills everyday just to live in her own home. So, while she hasn’t outright said it (yet), I’m getting the feeling that what she is telling me is: it’s her or the cat.
The thing is, and I know that makes me a bad boyfriend, if I had to choose right now, I’d choose the cat. I love V, a lot, she is smart and fearless, she makes me laugh, and makes me feel more confident in myself than I’ve ever been. But not only do I also love my cat a lot, I am also responsible for him – when I adopted him as a kitten, I signed up for the long haul. Abandoning him now, after a decade, for someone I met a year ago just makes me feel like a pile of human garbage, no matter how amazing V is. I know he is “just a cat,” as some of my friends and family members have put it, but he is in many ways my baby. (I should also probably note that I’ve lived with cats all my life, but this is the first one I have raised all by myself.)
So what should I do, Doctor? I don’t want to have to choose between my cat and my girlfriend, because each option makes me sick with guilt. Is there a way I can have my cake and eat it too? And if there isn’t, then what should I do?
Crazy Cat Guy
DEAR CRAZY CAT GUY: This is an easy choice, CCG: pick your cat. This doesn’t make you a bad boyfriend, it makes you a good and responsible pet owner.
Here’s the thing: when you chose your cat – and he chose you – you didn’t buy a toy. You didn’t get some electronic gewgaw that can be tossed aside once you get bored of it. You made a commitment to a living breathing creature who loves you. You are, quite literally, his whole life. And to be perfectly blunt: F
K those people who think “it’s just a cat”. He’s not “just” a cat, he’s family and someone who loves and trusts you. Throwing that aside isn’t just irresponsible, it’s cruel.
Here’s another thing: V knew you had a cat when you started dating. This isn’t something you suddenly sprung on her, nor is it a change you made in the middle of dating her. Your cat has been there for as long as she’s known you. She went into this relationship, allergies and all, knowing that you had a beloved pet. If she went into this relationship thinking that your having a cat was just going to be a temporary thing or something that she could change… well, that’s on her. And if she is the kind of person who’s going to make you choose between your cat and her, then well, you’ll sure miss her.
Because let’s be real here, CCG: anyone who’s worth moving in with would NOT ask you to make that choice in the first place. Someone who’d ask a partner to get rid of a beloved member of their family for him or her is someone who needs to be kicked to the curb alongside this week’s garbage and good goddamn riddance.
(Also: “local long distance relationship”? Or, as the rest of us call it: dating?)
And frankly? Your cat was there first.
I’m sure V’s great, CCG… but it’s pretty clear she’s not right for you. You’re a cat parent. That’s part of who you are. You want someone who loves all of you, not just part of you and thinks the rest is something that can be callously discarded.
Pick the cat, CCG. He’s part of your life… and you’re all of his.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)