DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Recently I got a message from a friend saying she was back in town for the foreseeable future, working just along from me, and wanted to meet up for friendly drinks.
What she doesn’t know is that about 4 years prior, at a low point when I was struggling (and losing, badly) against debilitating depression, shame and self-loathing, I developed a terrible, terrible case of oneitis for her after some awkward, post-night-out kissing. That was all it took to prompt me into an obsession that kept on for nearly two years. On the surface I was her awkward grumpy friend she once had a slip-up with, who she liked getting drunk and being weird with. But underneath, I was deeply unhappy, lonely, neurotic, having suicidal thoughts and obsessing over her every day. Oh, and we were work colleagues!
It was messed up, but thankfully things changed. She moved away, I started therapy, my life got a little better, slowly. I didn’t see her for a long time. I still thought about her sometimes, but when I heard she had started a serious relationship I was happy to have another reason to put her out of my mind. When a mutual friend tried to tell me they’d broken up, I just didn’t want to know. I just kept making progress, getting better at making the most of the ups and recovering from the downs. I still having a nonexistent love life and a lousy job, but I’m proud of the progress I’ve made, because I’ve started learning how to value my own feelings and enjoy being me, in spite of everything.
But now that she’s back and I’m staring down the idea of seeing her again, I’m realising that I never fully cured my oneitis, and I still feel inadequate when I think about seeing her. My mental health has taken a bit of a dive as a result. I know I don’t want to be with her but I’m still really attracted to her. I feel like I couldn’t possibly be myself around her. I feel like her opinion of me matters more than my own, like I need to please her but never could. Which is insane, because I haven’t felt this subservient to anyone else I’ve had feelings for, and because she was always a loving, supportive friend to me. It almost feels like I’m getting dragged backwards to that darker time in my life, just as I was learning how to trust myself.
What I want most is to stop worrying and just be as honest as possible with a view towards getting out of each other’s lives so I can let go of how I feel about her once and for all. After all that time apart it hardly feels like much of a loss. But I feel like a part of me is worried about hurting someone who was always just a kind, supportive friend, while another is scared of being judged by her. I’m also worried I won’t be able to properly explain this to her, or that it won’t give me the closure I’m hoping for, or that I’ll just be making the wrong move entirely.
The added kicker is that she isn’t to blame for any of this, and has no idea I ever felt this way. Every day we saw each other, I was lying about how I felt. I’m definitely ashamed of it, and kind of scared of making it all real by talking about it.
I suppose what I’m asking is, what’s the best way for me to resolve this thing and put old obsession behind me?
Link to The Past
DEAR LINK TO THE PAST: My question for you, LTTP, is “what does this woman represent to you?”
One of the reasons why we get stuck with a case of Oneitis – getting hung up on one person who has no interest in dating us – is because we invest that person with meaning and importance that goes beyond who they are as a person. They aren’t just a human being to us any more; they’re the avatar of some specific belief or need that we feel is lacking in our lives. Many times it’s because we’ve invested so much in them emotionally that we can’t imagine life without them; we have made them so important that we treat them as our last and only hope for love. There may be millions of other women out there in the world, but there’re none like her, nobody who could possibly mean what she means or do what she does. She is the only person we could love or who could love us back.
Other times it’s because of what their presence in our lives means. She represents validation, especially if she’s socially desirable. Whether it’s her looks, her status, her fame, fortune or some other quality, the fact that she wants to date us means that we must be something special. It’s a way of saying “look at how awesome I am, because I can get a woman of this caliber.”
But the problem is that as much as people may want to round that feeling up to love… that ain’t it at all. It’s never about her as a person, it’s about what she represents. It’s about what’s lacking in your life.
So the first step to curing your Oneitis is to figure out what you are missing, LTTP. It sounds to me like what your friend represents is love, affection and support at a time when you desperately needed it. Throw in some sloppy make-outs, and it’s not hard to see why you link those feelings with her specifically. She was, in a way, a guardian angel for you, coming to you in your darkest hour. And because you invested so much importance and glorious purpose, you feel like you have to live up to a certain ideal for her. You feel as though you have to have this over-the-top life in order to be “worthy” of her, this woman who gripped you tight and pulled you from perdition. And so you’re in this double-bind. On the one hand, you want her because she represents that moment of passion. On the other, you fear that you aren’t good enough. So here you are, torn in two directions: obsessed with her but scared of disappointing her. Since she’s become this divine figure, her judgement is all-important. If she were to see you, measure you and find you wanting… well, wouldn’t that just be reaffirming that you’re nothing but scum who doesn’t deserve to crawl on this planet?
Here’s the thing though, LTTP: all of that isn’t true. It’s your own cosmology, this view that only exists in your head. It has nothing to do with reality or all the work that you’ve put in. And let’s make no mistake: you’ve put in a lot of work. Which, to be quite honest, makes your obsession and fear somewhat frustrating. You’re invalidating all the hard work you have done, the way that you have dragged yourself out of the muck because you don’t see that as being at all equivalent to one make-out session after a few too many drinks.
You need to start recognizing your own value, LTTP and the importance of how much you’ve done for yourself. The more that you can look at where you are and where you’ve come from, how hard you’ve fought and how much you’ve accomplished, the less you’ll feel that you need to supplicate yourself before her.
And just as importantly is that you need to recognize that this version of her you have in your mind right now doesn’t actually exist. You’ve put her on this pedestal and, in a way, invalidated her humanity. You’ve created this supernatural being in the place of a woman who farts, stubs her toe and gets zits, just like you do.
Hopefully, you’re still talking to your therapist. One of the best things you can do is talk about your friend with them and these complicated feelings that your friend’s return has brought up. That might get you some clarity and help resolve a little of the anxiety you’re feeling. Just as importantly, since they’re in a better position to judge where your head’s at, they’d be better able to tell you whether meeting up with your friend would be a good idea or not.
What I don’t think you need to do is explain any of this to her. Like you said: none of this is her fault, and dumping this on her is only going to cause unnecessary pain and confusion. That’s a cruel thing to do to someone who’s been trying to be a good and supportive friend to you. Instead, I think what you should do is work on accepting her as a person. A kind person, someone who clearly cares for you and has been a source of support… but just a person. Not somebody who’s opinion is more important than yours, not somebody who you need to impress or who has life-or-death power over your self-esteem. The more you can take her down from this pedestal you’ve erected and see her for who she really is, the less of an awesome and terrible figure she’ll be.
And at that point, you’ll be in a better position to know what happens next. Maybe you’ll be able to have a more honest friendship with her, free from the stresses of your Oneitis. Maybe the two of you will drift out of one another’s lives again, as sometimes happens.
But regardless of how your relationship evolves or changes, you’ll be free. You’ll have been able to let go of your oneitis and feel the strength and confidence you need to move forwards and find your own worth and validation.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: How do you get women to respond and move from online dating to communicating on non-online dating means? I say this as I always read bios and use puns (not name related, bio related) and fill it with relevant information, but t never seems to do much good.
Each message is tailored towards the individual, I suppose I need a better approach. Now the big problem I have is by letting the conversation (when I get a reply) go waaaay too long and not getting the conversation off the dating site via a phone number or a Facebook account or something.
It couldn’t hurt to hit the gym, update my pictures and show off a little by getting some nice photos done in a scenic locale with a drone, just adding set dressing to the profile picture too.
Also I think I’ve gotten a little bored with online dating, it’s so disconnected from actual interaction that it’s difficult for me to care at all about it.
In addition, what are some good hobbies to make me more interesting to women, as so far, videogames, tabletop roleplaying games, reading, movies and old TV shows from the 70’s to early 2000’s aren’t exactly hot button topics as half the people I talk to haven’t even heard of the stuff that I like. This isn’t even obscure anime neither (although I love me my anime), it’s mainstream stuff…although I would be a very happy man If I could meet someone who liked the Viewtiful Joe or Chibi-Robo series…or even knew what they were as even my roleplaying buddies haven’t heard of either.
I could have more success when convention season rolls around again, potentially. This isn’t even really an aversion to getting absolutely drunk, as thats fun as hell! It’s about being able to connect with people when sober, be it over a computer screen or face-to-face.
I think part of my reasons for not being able to get dates is I’m actually fairly boring. I go to work, play my tabletop rpgs, play video games, write some source material for a book I’m writing, go to sleep, go to work etc.
Now I’m comfortable in the life I have, no complaints there but it sure could do with some excitement, and that would be more likely to draw women to me. Strange as it may seem, I should get into sewing, knitting, DIY, something practical as there’s nothing better than a freshly painted wall or some newly repaired socks.
Or I could go skydiving, deep sea diving or NASCAR driving (or at least stock car racing or something). Maybe a good mix of the dangerous and non-dangerous would be a good idea.
Anyway, if you have got any ideas for interesting hobbies then please let me know!
DEAR ORDINARY GUY: OK OG, you’ve conflated about four different issues into one casserole of a dating crisis. The problem with this approach is that by mixing things all together like this, you’ve ended up obscuring the actualproblems and ended up inventing new ones for yourself.
I mean, you basically answered your own question in your second paragraph. Your biggest problem is that you don’t actually make your move when you have a chance. Now, in fairness, this is a problem a lotof guys have: they play it entirely too safe. They want to be 110% sure that there’s a connection and that the person they’re talking to is going to say “yes” when he asks her on a date. But not only is this neverassured, it ends up working against them. Emotions follow their own laws of physics, just like physical objects do. Call it NerdLove’s First Law of Emotional Dynamics: Attraction is an object in motion… and like an object in motion, it’s going to lose momentum if there’s nothing propelling it forward. Just as friction bleeds the momentum away from a physical object, time bleeds away the emotional momentum of attraction. If you aren’t driving that attraction forward, then that attraction is going to fade on its own.
That’s why it’s important to move things off the app and into the physical world as quickly as possible The longer you take to ask someone on a dating app for an actual date, the more likely it is that their attraction is going to fade and they’re going to end up going out with someone else. If you’ve had some solid back-and-forth conversations with someone you met on Tinder or OKCupid, then there’s no reason to notpropose meeting up. The worst that happens is that they say no, and then you’ve saved time and emotional energy that you would’ve squandered by waiting longer.
Your other questions are an indicator that either you’re approaching the wrong women or you’re having some issues with your own identity. One of the mistakes that a lot of guys make is that they think they have to live a specific lifestyle or have particular hobbies or achievements in order to date. The problem with this outlook is that it encourages guys to live inauthentic lives and pursue women that they’re not actually compatible with. It doesn’t do you any good to take up hobbies that you don’t actually like in order to meet women; even if you do start having more social success and meeting more women, you’re not necessarily meeting the right women for you. And trust me when I tell you from experience: there’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re meeting tons of people and none of them are actually people you can connect with.
You need to make a point of trying to find women that you’re actually compatible with, who you share commonalities and values with. One of the best ways to do this is to find ways of exploring your hobbies and interests in ways that brings you in contact with other people who share those interests. There are, after all, plenty of women out there who loves anime and video games and video games about anime. And if you like crafting or making things with your hands, then sure, knitting or sewing could be useful. You could even combine your interests and start getting into cosplay or constructing costumes and props for cosplayers.
If you legitimately want to find more hobbies to be more interesting, then by all means, do that. Finding new and interesting hobbies is a great way to build a more attractive lifestyle – even if it’s just for your own enjoyment. Just make sure that you’re exploring things that actually speak to you instead of trying to live somebody else’s idea of an attractive lifestyle. You want to present your best self, not somebody else’s.
And just as an aside: I realize you were probably making a joke about getting trashed in order to talk with women, but that’s… a bad idea. I speak from personal experience when I tell you that too much alcohol and flirting mix about as well as nitroglycerine and a centrifuge. Yeah, alcohol can be a social lubricant, but it’s really easy to end up with too much lubricant. And then you’ve got an even bigger mess on your hands.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)