DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I really appreciate the fact that you offer sex positive dating advice. One of my big problem with the pick up community when I started getting into it is that it made me into a somewhat awful individual that didn’t really like women. However, the dilemma remains: How to meet a woman and have some game without being a misogynistic ass worthy of Return of Kings or creepy subreddits?
I’m glad you’re providing other guys with that opportunity. Even though I’m mostly over my hurdles and I’m pretty confident now (I was the very typical nerd in high school), I still enjoy reading your column. It’s important to understand that while there are pretty awful women, they’re not representative of the entire gender/sex (And there’s pretty awful guys too!).
I do have a question however. When I start seeing a girl/have just slept with her, sometimes I have some vestiges of oneitis-like behavior return which makes me make poor decisions (Like sending that extra text the morning after or coming on too strong too soon.) Would you have any advice to offer when it comes down to being able to better keep a certain distance in the beginning of the relationship, without closing off completely emotionally?
In Too Deep
DEAR IN TOO DEEP: I’m going to get to your question in a second, but I want to take a moment to point something out: you’ve basically given yourself a false dichotomy. There really isn’t an inherent divide between “being a good guy” and “having game”. As I’ve said many a time before, being good with women doesn’t also mean that you have to be an asshole. Being willing to flirt, to be sexually forward (especially if you’re prioritizing a sexual relationship or looking for someone who might be up for going home with you that night) doesn’t also mean not respecting women or having to treat them like crap, and being a decent guy doesn’t mean also being a Nice Guy. The example I always like to point to is Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood; sexual without being creepy, direct without being rude, flirty without being a dick and above all else: respectful of the people he’s hitting on.
There’s a reason why he’s called Captain Jack Hotness and it’s more than just the fact that John Barrowman is a damned fine-looking man.
Anyway. Getting back to your question.
There are usually two main causes for Oneitis. The first is the classic scarcity mentality – the idea that awesome and desirable women are a limited resource and that each rejection or relationship that doesn’t work out means that you’re one step closer to being Forever Alone. As a result, you (generic you) feel like you need to latch on to each woman that comes along because you have this nagging subconscious feeling that she could be The One and if you don’t lock her down, you’ll lose out forever and never know love/attraction/orgasms like this ever again.
The other tends to be low self-esteem. Much like with a scarcity mentality, it spurs the idea that there are few women out there for you; unlike the scarcity mentality, it’s less that there are few women in general and more that you don’t believe you could do better or find somebody equally as awesome should things not work out. You believe you have to hold onto this woman at all costs because you simply don’t think that there are other women out there who might like you or find you attractive.
In both cases, this usually results in putting the other person on a pedestal as a way of justifying your attraction to them. You’re twitterpated over them, so therefore they must be special and unique. It’s a nicely self-reinforcing feedback loop: you’re in “love” with them so you make them more than what they really are and those artificially inflated virtues make you more attracted to them. Except, in the end, it’s not about them as a person, so much as what they represent: your “only” chance at Twu Wuv.
Of course, it certainly doesn’t help that nerds tend to be overly sentimental hopeless romantics. Geek culture is especially bad about pushing the idea of The One True Love; genre fiction is saturated with the idea of a Perfect Love, one that is Destined and to which nothing else could ever compare. There may be others over time, but in the end, the protagonist’s love life will only truly be fulfilled if they hook up with their One True Pairing – accept no substitutes. Pair those years of cultural conditioning with the aforementioned underlying causes and you end up with a recipe for a nasty case of Oneitis that can come bubbling to the surface from your subconscious at the most inconvenient times.
You have to figure out just why it is you tend to attach too quickly to the women you date/sleep with. In my case, the nasty case of Oneitis that messed me up for years was due to low self-esteem; I thought I’d lucked out finding someone I thought was a Nerd Goddess and there was no way in hell I could ever find somebody that amazing who would actually, y’know, be attracted to me. As I worked on my self-confidence, it was easier to keep in mind that there were many, many women out there who were all amazing and would find me to be awesome too. I found the nagging tendency to want to push too hard or to need the validation from others would fade and I was able to take each relationship as it came.
Keep in mind is that there is no universal value to what women may or may not find excessive; one woman’s “he’s being clingy” is another’s “just right”, while trying to keep a certain distance can come off as “way too aloof” to still others. That extra text the morning after may be too much for one woman, but may be no big deal to another. You have to find the right balance with each person, and that can take some trial and error as you learn to calibrate your instincts. It can help – especially if you’re not looking for an exclusive relationship – to think of them as friends who you happen to sleep with; it can help take the self-imposed pressure of “was that too much?” when you’re texting or talking to your various partners.
TL, DR version: Oneitis is usually a sign that you need to get your head right. Work on the underlying causes and you’ll find that your tendency towards Oneitis will go away.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Kind of a long one here but I will try and give you the condensed version. I find myself in the Friend Zone with a bad case of oneitis for someone that KNOWS exactly how I feel for her. We have been seeing each other for 9 months and have had “the talk” where I received the standard clichés (it’s not you, it’s me) and she told me that she just wanted to be friends.
I was okay with being friends but her behavior has been more than confusing. She knows I am very attracted to her but I have not tried to be romantic or sexual with her since we had the conversation. I have, in fact, fended off HER advances more than once after a night of drinking. (I’m only so strong, I won’t be able to do that every time. I certainly didn’t WANT to fend her off those times either. I was afraid she would wake up with the coyote uglies.)
I have became this woman’s therapist, supposedly the only close male friend she has and she only has a couple of girlfriends that don’t seem very loyal. Every conversation we have involves an abusive ex-boyfriend or the guy that convinced her to go away with him so he could cheat on his wife. (She willingly went because she thought he was going to dump the wife for her, I mean, after all that’s what he had been telling her in texts for the past three months. That’s right, she fell in love by text…)
They were discovered, she was made out to be the town harlot, and now everyone else has moved on except her. She hides out at home, afraid to be seen in public. She uses the excuse of running into someone that was involved with that episode to cancel on me last minute for almost EVERYTHING we plan to do together. I know she has anxiety issues but seriously, cancel at the last minute every time, BY TEXT???
We hardly ever go out and when we do it is to somewhere out of town that she doesn’t think anyone will know us. If we plan on doing something 9 times out of 10 she will cancel on me and it is always last minute and by text. She even stood me up on my birthday. By text…
Now here is the kicker…I ACTUALLY FEEL SORRY FOR HER!!! AND I HAVE FEELINGS FOR HER!!! I feel horrible about all of the things that she has had to go through. I think that she suffers from manic depression. I have been on such an emotional roller coaster with this woman. I don’t know how much more I can take and honestly I don’t know why I have taken as much as I have!
She doesn’t want me but she doesn’t want anyone else to have me. Actually broke down into tears one night when a younger woman said hello to me. She told another attractive single woman that WAS INTERESTED in me that we were dating. She has dated several guys that I know to be low lifes yet I’m not datable. She doesn’t have those feelings for me. However, get a little alcohol in her and she is all over me.
I do not know how much more I can take. I don’t see this ending well if we were to get together. I feel like I am the reason she doesn’t want to be seen in public with me. I am somehow an embarrassment for her. Yet each time I try to step away from her she calls or texts, anything it takes to get my attention again. Once she has it, she doesn’t want it. My self esteem is shot. And for some reason I can’t go nuclear and drop her. I feel really guilty that I would be abandoning her, even though I know the minute the next guy comes along that says the right things to her, I’ll be forgotten. I’m tired of being stood up last minute and feeling like I’m an afterthought. My close friends that have seen the disappointment first hand for the past several months are right but I can’t seem to walk away. What to do? What to do? I know there is no chance of this relationship ever blossoming into what I want it to be. Even if it did turn into something more I don’t know if my self esteem can recover from what it has been through.
What to do?
DEAR MIXED SIGNALS: Dump her. Dump her now and never look back.
That sounds harsh I know, but you’re in an awful situation here and it’s not good for either of you. You’re not in the Friend Zone because, frankly, you’re not her friend. This isn’t about how you’re treating her but about how SHE is treating YOU. Right now, you’re stuck as her emotional anchor and she’s dragging you both down.
So before I get too deep into this, I want to say: good on you for being willing to push her away when she’s drunk and hitting on you. That can be incredibly hard to resist and it says a lot about your character that you’ve been able to turn her down at a time when she’s really not able to give consent. And you’re right: that would be an incredibly bad scene the morning after… because she is one giant toxic mess right now.
I can empathize with her: she’s gone through some heavy crap lately and definitely needs to see a therapist to unpack some anxiety issues. At the same time however, that does not excuse her from being an a
le to the people who care about her and are trying to support her as best they can. And frankly, she’s treating you like crap. She wants you to herself, to give her the attention and validation she craves but doesn’t give anything back except for pawing at you when she’s trashed. She’s actively sabotaging your love-life because she wants you to be constantly dancing in attendance on her, soaking up all of her drama like the emotional sponge she’s always wanted.
But – and you had to know there was a but coming – you’re letting her do this to you. And, if I may be perfectly blunt, this is going to keep happening to you, even if you do cut things off with her. There are going to be other manipulative, toxic women who are going to walk all over you exactly the same way she does, unless you shape up.
You see, the problem is that you have poor boundaries. You’re permitting her walk all over you without so much as raising your voice in your own defense. Canceling plans at the last minute is a crappy thing to do, but sometimes life happens and there’s nothing you can do. Canceling constantly at the last minute is something that you should never be willing to put up with and would merit a very firm come-to-Jesus meeting long before things had ever gotten to this stage. But you’ve been accepting it and without saying “Hey, that’s a supremely awful way to treat a friend and I won’t put up with this any more,” which only gives her permission to keep doing it, and allows her to just up the stakes in her attempts to keep you around. I mean, Jeebus H. Frog, she’s gone so far as to go out of her way to destroy your chances of dating somebody else. Why in pluperfect hell are you even still TALKING to her?
I get that you like her and want to help her. However, you need to realize that while you’re her friend, she is not YOUR friend. You are letting her suck the life out of you because… well, I’m not entirely sure because quite frankly I can’t imagine the level of bedroom skills it would take to make me stick around in a situation like this. You are not her therapist, her brother, her boyfriend or anything with any sort of responsibility for her. I’m sorry for the hell she’s gone through but frankly, it’s on her head to get her crap together. It is not your duty to fix her, save her or have anything else to do with her. You have an obligation to yourself and you’ve been neglecting it
There is absolutely nothing here for you to salvage and you know it. So first things first: cut her the hell off. Dump her and go full nuclear – cut all ties. Block her on every form of social media you have, erase her number from your phone, delete her texts, block her from calling you at all if you can arrange it. Giving her any entry into your life is just another avenue for her to try to drag you back into her drama. Make sure your friends know too and have your back; do not let her use them as a way to get to you and to talk your happy ass down when you start having the inevitable second thoughts. Shut it down, burn all the bridges and salt the earth; this is the first step in your recovery.
The next step is that you need to start enforcing your boundaries so that you don’t end up in this situation again. Toxic people love folks who have poor boundaries – it’s easier to walk all over them and get what they want. You have to be your own first and best line of defense. You need to be willing to stand up for yourself and not allow her – or anyone else – to treat you this way.
I have a word for you, and I want you to get used to using it.
As in: “No, I won’t put up with your constantly canceling our plans at the last minute.” “No, I won’t tolerate you standing me up.” “No, I won’t accept your being a lousy friend to me.” “No, I won’t put up with this just because I want to sleep with you.”
It can be hard at first, especially if it’s someone you like. You’re going to worry that by saying “no” or calling her out for her bad behavior that you’re going to end up damaging your relationship.
You SHOULD damage relationships like that. If somebody is going to get upset because you’re willing to stick to your limits and not let yourself be guilted or manipulated into doing something you don’t want to, then you are well rid of them. If they are going to get angry at you because you won’t put up with rude or inconsiderate behavior, then forget ’em, they can go be awful to somebody else.
And you know what? The more you stand up for yourself, the better you’re going to feel. You’ll start to remember that you’ve got worth as a person, not just as somebody’s plaything. You’ll start to realize you’re much stronger than you’ve ever realized. And, more importantly, you’ll start cutting out the toxic, awful people out of your life. Trust me: it will be goddamn amazing.
So do it. Stand up for yourself. Cut her off and let your new, bulls
t free life finally begin.
Good luck. And write back so we know how you’re doing.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)