DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Last year I separated from my wife. It was the first long term relationship I had ever been in, we were together for 10 years, and married for 8. We’d been living like we were married for almost the entire time we were together. Problems at her home when we first started going out spurred me to invite her to move in with me very early on in the relationship. Probably a bit too early, but that’s neither here nor there.
As the relationship progressed we Tic’d and Tock’d back and forth between an extremely loving and caring couple and an abuser/abused relationship with me as the abused. Nothing physical, but it was the classic emotional kind. Isolation, feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy in either in the bedroom and in the job field.
It took the intervention of someone I met at work and developed a strong –and likely unhealthy but that’s a different story– friendship with to really open my eyes to what was going on and make a choice of what I wanted. I was given an ultimatum and was forced to choose between my wife and my friend and I chose my wife. Because… that’s what you’re supposed to do, right? Well, saying goodbye to my friend was such an agony to do that it was what helped push me into making the decision to saying goodbye to my (now) ex-wife.
It’s been the better part of a year plus since this happened and I’ve gone on a grand total of One (1) date in that time. I was on OKCupid, Plenty of Fish, even Tinder. Entertainingly, the date I did go on was matched through Tinder but ended with coffee and someone I’m glad to call a friend, but nothing more.
The thing is… my heart’s just not into the dating scene. I’m 30, recently graduated with an Associate’s Degree back in December, and desperately underemployed for it. I speak to people on OKC, POF and other Dating sites but even when the possibility of a date is broached I just don’t “feel it.” I sigh, and try to politely decline. I’ve even matched up on Tinder a few times and even when a hookup is proposed I’ve got nothing. Zero interest on my part. I’m flattered when asked, I mean, I know what I look like; both in pictures and on paper.
So, I’m trying to get an outsider’s opinion on this. Am I in a slump? Is this something I should be looking into professionally? I’ve had a history of depression and the last two years of my marriage were goddamn miserable. I’ve read the site a lot, but to have just ZERO interest when a woman is basically saying, “Look, I want to hook up. You’re place or mine?” and my only response is, “I’m sorry, but this is not the D you’re looking for.”
Is there any way to work past this or is the answer a simple “Time heals all,”?
Not the D They’re Looking For
DEAR NOT THE D THEY’RE LOOKING FOR: While I don’t think it would hurt to talk to a counselor or a therapist to hash out some of the pain you’ve gone through, NTDTLF, you’re looking for problems where there really aren’t any. You’ve recently ended a very long-term, turbulent relationship… that’s going to take it’s toll on you. There’s going to be a period of adjustment – after all, you’ve just cut out a relationship that’s lasted for a decade. That’s going to have carved a groove in your brain. In a lot of ways, it’s almost like you’ve lost a limb and you’re going to need to adjust to doing things differently, from things as major as your daily routine to as seemingly minor as where you sleep in your bed. You’re going to have a lot of little things to unlearn that you’ll never even suspect had become part of your daily life until it was suddenly gone.
And then there’s the emotional toll that this can take on someone. You’ve been in an abusive relationshipand that’s going to leave wounds and scars and those take time to heal. To be sure: everybody handles abuse differently and there’s no one way to respond to an abusive relationship but frankly… it’s going to take a little time just to get back into emotional shape again.
I don’t think that you’re in a slump, I think your problem is that you’re trying to leap back in before you’re ready to date again. Yes, everyone recovers from breakups and heartbreak at different speeds and some people often start the getting-over process while they’re still with their partner but a year is awfully quick to try to push yourself back out there when you’re not feeling like you want to be out there. Maybe you feel like it’s time. Maybe you have well-meaning friends who’ve been telling you that you need to get back out there as quickly as possible or maybe they think that people need to be coupled off to be happy. But while getting under someone can be a great way to get over someone else, that’s not the only way to get over a break up… especially a relationship that was as turbulent as yours.
So do yourself a favor: take yourself back off the market. Suspend your accounts on OKCupid and Tinder. Spend some more time on you, with friends and family who’ve got your back and who’ll just be there for you while you take care of yourself. Just let yourself recover at your own pace and wait until you feel like you’re ready to date again – not when you “should” be but when you honestly feel the desire to do so.
Don’t worry about how long it will or won’t take; the dating scene will be there waiting for you when you’re ready to come back.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have been reading your book, New Game +, and I love it. I’m up to doing the approaches bit and I have got a bit of anxiety.
I love the idea of gradually desensitizing myself. Yesterday I asked 7 girls for the time like you suggested. I didn’t ask 20 people for the following reason (and this is my current sticking point):
I work in a smallish town just outside of London. I would love to do them at lunchtime but my biggest fear is for my colleagues at work finding out what I am doing and my employer finding out about it. That of it blows up and an interaction goes wrong and if it’s witnessed by my colleagues, my employer may think I am harassing girls. Even if an interaction doesn’t go wrong but it is witnessed by colleagues, they think I am asking weird questions.
Also I am worried about bumping into the same people if an interaction goes wrong.
Do you think this is a legitimate fear?
I am thinking about approaching girls in a different town or London where I can do it and practice anonymously. It’s a shame I can only do it on weekends.
What are your thoughts on this?
DEAR NERVOUS NEWBIE: You’re overthinking things, NN. If it’ll make you feel more comfortable and you’ve got the cash to do it, then by all means, practice regularly in London. But I don’t think it’s really necessary.
If you’re following my book, then all you’re doing right now is making some fairly innocuous approaches – you’re asking people for the time or for directions to some place nearby. If your colleagues think that asking a stranger for directions to Starbucks or the nearest Marks and Sparks is weird… well, that’s pretty much their damage, really. Can’t really help it if they assume that human interaction is inherently unusual. Even when you advance a little further, you’re just having a brief, polite conversation with someone before going on your way. That’s really it. As long as you’re not bothering people – trying to start conversations with people who’d rather not talk to anyone, for example – there really shouldn’t be any problems.
Similarly, unless your town is so small that everybody knows everyone else by sight if not by name, then odds are that the people you’re approaching will forget that you exist pretty much as soon as you leave their eye-line. Think of how many people you see during your daily commute to work and back. How many of them actually stand out in your mind, instead of being a non-descript, human shaped blur? Trust me: people are more oblivious and self-involved than you realize. Unless you do something so significant or unusual, you’re going to return to being the background noise in their day-to-day lives.
Just remember: at this stage, all you’re doing is getting used to having brief, polite conversations with folks. This is How To Human practice, not making street approaches and trying to get phone numbers. There are times and places where that’s appropriate and the social contract allows for it. But that’s for later on. Right now, just work on being comfortable talking to folks.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Your advice vibes well with a lot of others I read and take seriously, my question is simple, but it seems complex to me. I’ll make the story as short as possible.
I have feelings for a girl I’ve known for two years. The feelings mutual. She used to date a good friend of mine. About a year ago, they broke up. It seemed like they both moved on, she was dating a new guy, he moved in with his new girl.
5 months go by, she breaks it off with her new boyfriend. She and I have a talk over text, she invites me over to her place for drinks (around midnight), I decline the offer, counteroffer with Saturday evening at my place, she accepts.
Everything seemed good to go, two nights before the date my friend calls me up tells me he’s thinking about getting back together with her. I tell him he should do what feels right, he decides he’s going to. I decide it’s best to back-out of the situation, I should have explained why but I didn’t, it was obvious she felt rejected by me, which was not my intention. A month later they’re back together, now, every time I’m over there’s this huge amount of sexual tension between her and I.
She’s flirting, engaging me in conversation, touching me, making eye contact with me to the point where we’re staring at each other you get the idea. I TRIED to friend-zone this girl even though I have feelings for her, but its not working. So my question is this, would it be appropriate for me to sit down with her, tell her how I feel, and make it clear that I have no intention of betraying my friends trust? Or should I just keep my mouth shut and keep my distance, even though it doesn’t seems to be having any effect on her, she just comes onto me harder.
Before you tell me I shouldn’t talked to her or asked her over in the first place, me and my friends have a rule about dating each others ex-girlfriends which I followed to a T.
I Wish I Didn’t Like Jesse’s Girl
DEAR I WISH I DIDN’T LIKE JESSE’S GIRL: Before I go into my answer here, I want to take a moment to highlight your last sentence. You really didn’t do anything wrong about inviting this woman over. She was clearly interested in a booty call with you. She was single. You were single. It’s all pretty much on the up and up. The fact that she’s your friend’s ex is kind of irrelevant, to be honest. Yes, she and your friend have history but – as I’ve said many times before – you don’t get to call dibs on someone. The fact that they’ve dated doesn’t mean that he gets to decide who is or isn’t allowed to see her. If he can’t handle the idea of someone he knows seeing her – especially a year after they’ve broken up – then that’s his problem. Not yours. Not hers. You’re both grown-ass adults. You get to decide what you want to do for yourselves.
As for what’s happening between you and her now that she’s with your buddy again? Assuming that she is indeed flirting with you and you’re not misreading the situation… use your words and tell her that you’d rather she stop flirting with you while she’s with him. If you want to give her a little extra wiggle room for plausible deniability, you don’t even have to be direct about it. Just say “Hey, I don’t know if I’m just reading too much into things, but I’m kind of getting a flirty vibe from you while you’re dating my friend, and it makes me a little uncomfortable. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d appreciate it if we could have a little more distance while the two of you are together.” This gives you both room to save face and address the elephant in the room.
Plus, if and when the two of them break up again, then you’ll have left things open for the two of you to bang like a screen door in a hurricane.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com)