DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m heading in the right direction but I need a push.
I am 27 years old and I have never been in a relationship. In fact, I have never had a single date at all. This is something that I have been looking for for a long time, but there was also a time not so long ago when I was convinced it would never happen.
However, last year I suffered a serious life event which ultimately led me to reflect on my own life, what I want from it, and how to get there. As I was figuring myself out I also started to see what I had been doing wrong in my (lack of) love life. Simply put, I had zero confidence and I was afraid to take any risks whatsoever. When I met someone I liked I convinced myself she wouldn’t be interested anyway and didn’t do anything.
Over the past year I’ve made major strides on that front, which leads me to where I am now. For the first time ever I honestly feel that I’m worth having a relationship with. I appreciate my qualities, I accept and work with my flaws, and I see that while I may not look like Elijah Wood I don’t look like Gollum either.
With that under my belt, I’ve also made steps to do more outside the house in order to meet people, and I’m generally more open to finding someone. In particular, I’ve been signing up for beginner courses for a number of sports, looking to find one to take up more seriously while also meeting other people trying something new. I’m glad to say it actually works (go figure!): it turns out there are a lot of attractive and interesting single women in my area. But if that was the end of the story I wouldn’t be writing in.
The thing is, for as many women as I’ve met and had nice conversations with over these past months, that first date remains as elusive as ever. Sometimes it may have been my fault, at other times it was probably just bad luck. For example, during the five weeks of one course I started to hit it off quite well with my sparring partner. After the final class I offered to exchange contact info, which she accepted. Unfortunately, I had completely forgotten that I had left my phone in my locker, so I couldn’t take her number. She took mine, but she was in a rush and at this point hasn’t texted me her number yet. I’m worried she’ll forget and that will be the end of that. She has a fairly distinctive name so I could probably look her up on Facebook, but I don’t know if I should.
At a different course I ended up chatting with someone after class too, but upon learning that we were heading the same direction she goes “Anyway, see you next week!” and waves me off (I’m no detective, but I’m reasonably certain that means “not interested”).
These kinds of things happen to me a lot. Despite looking, feeling and doing much better than ever before, and women generally responding positively to me, I still can’t ever seem to seal the deal. This can easily lead to old insecurities popping back up again: “If I still can’t get a date after all the progress I’ve made, maybe I just wasn’t cut out for this”. I already deleted my Tinder account some time ago because Tinder was essentially a non-stop rejection train (final station: Depressionville). I obviously don’t need every woman on the planet to fall at my feet now that I’ve climbed out of my hole, but on the other hand the old adage of “Be patient, work hard, and you’ll find someone eventually” is wearing thin.
So this leads me to my question:
Where do you find the pool of confidence and determination within yourself to keep at it in the face of disappointments (self-made or otherwise) when you’re only just stepping into this arena and sometimes it can seem that the Universe doesn’t want you to have this? Especially when in all honesty you already wanted your first relationship (or certainly your first date) five if not ten years ago?
DEAR WORN OUT: First of all, WO, let me congratulate you. You’ve been doing a lot of work and making a lot of progress. That’s incredibly admirable and you should be proud of everything that you’ve achieved.
So it seems a shame to dismiss all of that progress based on faulty information.
When it comes to dating, it can be hard to stay motivated, WO. It’s really easy to get caught up in the sense that things are pointless, especially when you feel like you’re putting all this effort in and only getting rejection in return.
And to be honest? That stuff can be difficult even when you’re socially skilled. God knows I’ve had days that wouldn’t go right even if I held a gun to it’s head. There’re plenty of times when my desire to go be social runs headlong into a feeling of “oh God people don’t want to be around me”.
But here’s the thing, WO: like I said to House up there, feels aren’t always reals. The fact that you feel something doesn’t mean that it’s true… or even accurate. The problem is that you are drawing conclusions from facts that aren’t always in evidence.
For example: you’re taking your classmate’s waving you off as a judgement on you and your desirability, but you don’t actually know that. You’ve drawn that conclusion on your own without any real data to back that up. Here’s what you know for sure: she went a different way than you after class. That’s it. She didn’t say “I’m going a different direction because you’re an uggo”. She didn’t declare that you shouldn’t even dream about trying to get with her. She just said “See you next week.” Maybe she was meeting friends. Maybe she had someplace she was going. She might have felt awkward, she might be worried that she was giving you the wrong idea or maybe the thought about attraction even entered her mind.
The truth is, you don’t know. You’re just letting your insecurities and assumptions run away with you.
The same is true of the woman you gave your number to. You’ve already decided that she’s going to forget about you, regardless of the fact that you have no earthly reason to believe it. Nothing’s happened and you’ve already locked yourself into the worst case scenario.
You, my friend, need to start developing a mindset for success, and you start by focusing on what is under your control. For example, you’re treating “getting a date” as the sign of success… but by doing so, you’re ignoring all the progress you’ve made. Yeah, it’s your end goal, but by focusing only on that goal, you’re ignoring how far you’ve come and how much you’ve achieved. You’ll do a lot better to focus on the immediate milestone and celebrate your progress instead of bemoaning that you aren’t where you want to be yet.
Yeah, a date for Saturday would be awesome. But so is the fact that you’ve been getting so much positive attention from the women around you. That’s a far stronger sign of how well you’re doing. You’re doing things you never thought you could do, achieving things you never thought you could achieve.Yeah, it’d be nice if you could have all this out of the way already and just be knee-deep in sex, but it’d also be nice if I had a restored cherry red 67′ Mustang hardtop.
Celebrate your progress, WO. Recognize where you are and how that proves what you’re capable of. Stop downplaying how much you’ve grown by insisting on the worst possible interpretations of any situation, especially when you don’t have actual proof that it’s true. Cultivate that positive attitude and realize that even when things don’t work out that it often has nothing to do with you.
And one more thought: yeah, things can be tough. It can feel like the universe is against you. But here’s something to keep in mind: if things are hard and it feels like the universe is pushing back against you? That’s a sign that you’ve leveled up, and now you’re facing new challenges. You’ve overcome those other ones. You’ll overcome these too.
Just keep at it, WO. You’ve got this.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I flat out refuse to go out with anyone who is really attractive because in my own personal experience, they are shallow, manipulative, entitled, and morally bankrupt.
That being said, even if I can’t trust them enough to give them the time of day, I till am attracted to them because I just am. Ideally I could find myself someone who is not attractive but at the same time is not ugly, just somewhere in between. But that doesn’t seem to be working.
I figure ether I’m going to have to settle for less, treat my bias, or wind up alone with just a dog and a house. I’m 23, make 60k a year stand 5 foot 10 inches any advice on this issue.
DEAR GREGORY HOUSE: Well you’re not wrong, GH; you basically have three options. Either you start dating people you’re not attracted to, resign yourself to being lonely… or you could go talk to an actual doctor and not a loudmouth with an advice column. Because, honestly? The problem you have isn’t the problem you think you have.
I mean, yes, there’re jerks and jackasses out there. Jerk knows no gender, appearance or sexual orientation. But if you’ve convinced yourself that every beautiful person out there is a jerk… well, there’s an aphorism about that. If you meet one jerk, you’ve had bad luck. If you meet nothing but jerks, then odds are that you’re the jerk.
Because, honestly my dude? I can feel your attitude radiating from here. When it comes to dating, attitude is destiny. As the saying goes, the optimist says “I can,” the pessimist says “I can’t,” and they’re both correct. Someone who has a generally positive outlook tends to do better because a positive attitude makes you stronger. It means that you have an easier time bouncing back from failure because you look at failure and see that it’s just a temporary thing that may not have anything to do with you. It sucks, sure, but it’s also a challenge, something that you can overcome. A negative attitude, on the other hand, makes it harder. It saps your strength and motivation because you convince yourself that this setback isn’t just inconvenient, it’s permanent. It’s an eternal black mark on your life, something that can never be overcome or worked around and there’s no point in even trying. It’s just how the universe is and there’s nothing you can do.
And then there’s the fact that a lousy attitude just straight turns people off.
I can certainly believe you’ve had a bad experience, even a couple of them in a row. But you’re also radiating bitterness like cheap coffee brewed with plutonium and that’s gonna put everyone off. When you roll into an interaction with someone with the attitude of “yeah, I’ve already decided you’re a bitch,” then you’re going to piss off a lot of people before you’ve even had a chance to open your mouth. And trust me: if I can feel your attitude through your letter, then people will see you coming a long, long way away.
And trust me: your poker face ain’t that good.
Even if you were to try to date people who are just average, you’re going to have no luck. There’s not a person out there who thinks “enh, you’ll do” is sexy. They’re even less likely to be turned on by someone who’s only dating them because they feel that they’re less likely to screw him over. They don’t want someone who’s condescending to date them, they want someone who digs them. That ain’t you, and they’re going to figure that out pretty damn quick.
But even if you did find somebody who’s willing to put up with that attitude, you’re not going to be doing any better. Because, just between you, me, and everyone reading this? You’re not going to trust them either. You’re going to constantly be waiting for them to betray you too. Because the issue isn’t whether someone’s attractive or not, it’s that you don’t trust anyone. And at some point, they’re going to get sick of your crap and dump you and then you’ll be back at square one again.
So ultimately, you’ve got two choices: you can resign yourself to being angry and bitter, or you can get help. I strongly suggest you start talking to a therapist, GH, because honestly? You sound miserable. Living your life expecting people to try to manipulate or betray you is lonely and dreary. There’s a much better life out there, one that you could have… as long as you’re willing to recognize that feelz aren’t always realz and that maybe, just maybe… you’re wrong.
Go talk to a therapist, GH. Even if you never trust the pretty people ever again, you’ll be much, much happier.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)