(Doctor’s Note: today’s column involves frank talk about suicide attempts and self-harm)
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I turn 25 in less than a month and I have never dated before. I intend to get stared in the near future. In high school I simply wasn’t ready, in college it basically got pushed to the bottom of my priorities list, and after college it took me couple of years to get my career in order and move out on my own.
When I start dating, I want to be able to present myself well enough that the woman I’m seeing won’t realize I’m inexperienced. I’m not saying I want to be dishonest about my past. I’ll be more than willing to reveal to her that I’m new to dating when the time is right. My goal is that when I do reveal this, she’ll be surprised to hear it since the dates went so well. Maybe that’s a lofty goal, but I want to do the best I can.
Is my goal realistic? What are some steps I can take in order to achieve it? What are some common rookie mistakes when it comes to dating and how can I avoid them?
Also, is there a good time for me to reveal to the woman I’m seeing that I’m new to dating? I’m assuming it wouldn’t be a good idea to bring it up on the first date, but maybe a few dates in? Or should I simply not bring it up unless she asks?
Thank you for all that you do.
Late Bloomer Ready to Bloom
DEAR LATE BLOOMER READY TO BLOOM: Here’s what you need to do LBRB: you need to calm the hell down.
Seriously my dude. I get a letter like yours on pretty much a weekly basis, all full of first timers who’re terrified that women can smell the inexperience on them. Hell, you can go back to my column from Valentine’s Day and see a similar letter from Need An Instruction Manual.
No, seriously. Go back and read it.
But here’s the thing: women aren’t going to give a damn if this is your first date or your five hundredth. They’re not worried about finding a guy who’s two punches on his card away from a free relationship sandwich, they’re worried about finding someone they like.
That dude could be you, if you just slow your roll and quit worrying about trying to pad out your dating resume.
Now like I said: if you go back and re-read my advice to Need An Instruction Manual, you’ll get a lot of the “rules” - as it were - that you’re looking for. But let me give you the TL;DR version.
Here’s what you need to do to make your first date with someone (or your first date ever) incredible: have fun. Seriously. That’s it. Do something fun and offbeat. Other best practices include:
Making sure you’re on a date with HER, not your phone
Asking questions about her and her interests. Focus on getting to know her and connecting with her, not impressing her.
Not getting drunk because you need some liquid courage to calm your nerves.
And just chill. You don’t need to reveal that you haven’t dated much (or at all) and you don’t need to make a big deal out of it. If she asks, tell her what you told me: it wasn’t a priority when you were younger and after college you focused on your career. The only people who’ll make a fuss out of that? Are ass
*es. And you don’t need to spend your precious time on ass
You’ll be fine. Just do like Frankie says:
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I could really do with some help right now.
I have been in a relationship for almost 2 years now with a girl who has been a friend since I was in the 9th grade. It’s been 6 years since we’ve known each other.
Before I tell you the problem, I think I should tell you how our relationship came to be so you can understand better. In the 10th grade, both of us were in relationships, with different people. I broke up as I moved away, while and she had a breakup around the time that she was tested positive for hypothyroidism. The guy got scared and broke up with her. She was shattered.
And yet, I was just a friend but I stuck around for her, even though I was in a different city. Our friendship grew deeper thanks to this. Two years ago I finally realized I was falling for her. She felt the same maybe and our long distance relationship began. Yes, a LONG DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP. It was ok.. pretty stable. And the first time we met in our relationship was in January. I know it sounds crazy, but that is the truth. Since then, we’ve met a total of 5 times as of today.
Now, for the problem: She is a fantastic person, is pursuing medicine, the same as me, and very hardworking. I thought that she is the one I want to stay with forever, but now I realize that I am just not happy anymore with her. It’s just falling apart. I don’t feel anything like that warm fuzzy feeling called love. I just don’t. But I care for her. A lot.
She’s attempted suicide once before, and I’m afraid that she might harm herself if we DO break up. We had a massive fight once and she slit her wrist. Fortunately, the cut wasn’t deep enough. So she was safe.
I feel I have grown out of this relationship. And I want to look forward to other prospects in life and work towards my career. Please help.
Leaving Long Distance
DEAR LEAVING LONG DISTANCE: Look, LLD, I’m gonna level with you: every relationship is going to even out. You’re not going to have a permanent case of the warmfuzzies for someone, no matter how amazing they are. The early, warm and tingly phase of every relationship fades as the connection you have with them deepens and becomes something different - but no less meaningful - than just the butterflies-in-the-stomach sort of thing.
And to be perfectly honest, I suspect part of the reason it lasted as long as it did for you was that you were in a long-distance relationship and the time between in-person visits prolonged things.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a judgement on you. The only reason you need to leave a relationship is that you want out. I just don’t want you going through your next string of relationships wondering why each seems to fall apart after the other.
Now, all that having been said: it’s probably for the best that you’re currently long distance with this girl because, frankly, it’s going to cut down on the immediate drama. The fact that she’s slit her writs in a show of drama before is… troubling. There is a certain personality-type – male or female – that will use threats of self-harm in order to get their way or maintain control of their partner. This is especially true if they suspect that their partner is going to leave them. They are, for all intents and purposes, putting you into a hostage situation, where if you leave, they’ll kill a hostage.
The twist is that THEY’RE the hostage.
Unfortunately, however, the only way to get out of that situation is basically to call their bluff. Otherwise, you have to ask yourself: how long you’re willing to stick around to keep them from hurting themselves? A month? A year? Five years? Are you going to have to spend the rest of your life with her for fear that she’ll pull the (metaphorical) trigger if you leave?
Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that you just up and dump them or leave them in a cruel and capricious fashion. You do owe her a certain amount of dignity and respect. This is why if you’re going to leave, you want to make the break up as quick and clean as possible. Once you’ve decided you want out, then the best thing you can do is end things immediately. Dragging it out is going to be like pulling off a bandage; it’s just going to prolong the agony, especially when your soon-to-be ex looks back on your time together and realizes that you’d been dying to leave.
So if you’re going to do it, do it soon. Call her up – normally I suggest that you do this face to face, but the LDR rules that out – and tell her straight up: you love her, you care for her, but you just can’t be her boyfriend any more. It’s nothing that she’s done, nothing that you’ve done; it’s just that your relationship’s reached its natural conclusion. You appreciate everything that you’ve gone through together, you’ll miss her and you won’t forget any of your time together… but that time’s come to an end and you have to move on.
She’s going to yell. Let her. She’s going to want to argue, to bargain, to demand explanations. Stand firm. You’re ending the relationship, not opening negotiations. The moment you start to engage with her arguments about why you can’t or shouldn’t leave is the moment that you’re making things worse. At that point, it’s no longer a break-up, it’s a contract negotiation, and you’re going to have to fight even harder to make this break-up stick.
Repeat what you’d said: it’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just that the relationship has run its course and it’s time for you to go.
And then you leave. You may need to apply the Nuclear Option to make sure that things stick. I know that there’s the impulse to be friends afterwards. It’s a noble impulse. But while you may be friends in the future, you’re not going to be able to instantly make the transition from “lovers” to “friends”. There needs to be time, distance and perspective to let the healing happen and that’s not going to happen overnight. You’re both going to need time away to make that happen.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room: whether she’s likely going to actually commit suicide if you leave. I honestly have my doubts; it sounds like her actions last time were more in the “cry-for-help/attention” school of drama. This is going to sound unbelievably callous, but some people WILL use act of self-harm as a threat against their partner, including actually cutting themselves. It’s rare that those attempts are more than for show, but they can be terrifying for the person who’s witnessing them.
So while I don’t think she will ACTUALLY harm herself, it’s not an unreasonable fear to have, and it’s something you would be wise to take into account.
If you’re worried that she might hurt herself when you break up with her, then the best thing you can do is give someone a heads up. It may be that you call her family before you call her. Let them know that you’re about to break up with their daughter and that she may be in a fragile state. If you’re not in contact with her family, then alert her friends – even if it’s just over Facebook. Give them the same notice: you’re leaving her and she’s going to need people around her, especially since you’re worried about what she may do.
If she calls you and threatens to hurt herself and you have reason to believe that she’s serious? That’s when you bring out the big guns and actually call emergency services. This isn’t the sort of thing you can do on your own.
But at the end of the day: you’ve got to do what’s right for you. And it sounds to me like leaving is the best thing that you can do. For the both of you.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)