DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I use social media a lot, which has made me a lot of friends. Our social circles always begin to intermingle and before you know it I have friends all over the world. I got into contact with one girl this way who’s gorgeous and into a lot of the same things I am, and naturally I developed a bit of a crush. The problem is, though, that she lives in another country. Remarkably, I managed to wake myself up to the idea that developing feelings for someone I’ll never see in-person and only communicate with through tweets was a terrible idea that could only end badly, and so I put those feelings aside, we stayed online pals, and everything was all good.
Then at the end of last year I was on holidays and posting updates and photos from my trip. She posted a few replies to those that were a bit flirty, but I’m the worst at misinterpreting friendliness for flirting and so I just posted some jokey replies and didn’t think much of it. But then as we’re talking she suggests that my next trip could be to visit her town. It turns out she’s actually not too far away from a friend I was planning on meeting up with this year, so I tell her it’s a possibility and we’re both excited by the idea.
A short while later she shows up in my DMs and we get talking a bit more normally than just tweeting jokes and short comments between us and our shared friends. She starts sounding flirty again and I respond a bit reservedly because I’m afraid of just seeing what I want to see in her messages. But then, and I have no idea how we actually got onto the topic, but we start talking about dating and relationships and she mentions that she would totally date me. I respond saying I would happily date her as well, and next thing I know she’s given me her number so we can properly chat with each other. Now, I’m pretty confident that that’s a sign of some kind of interest.
Fast forward to now, a little over a month later. I’m going to be making a trip in a few months to visit her and my other friend I was intending to meet up with, and I sent her some souvenirs from my trip which she loved. She and I have been talking regularly and have gotten a lot closer, but the conversations haven’t gotten as flirty as they did to start with – on my end it’s because I rarely have much success in the dating department and now that I seem to be onto a good thing I’m terrified of coming on too strong and scaring her off. On her end it could be the same thing, or she could have changed her mind, or I’ve misread some playful flirting for something more.
I’m really confused how to work out where I stand with her, and what to do if I’m standing where I want to be. If she were local I’d just bite the bullet and ask her out, and if she turns me down then no big deal; I’ve been through that before and stayed friends with those girls. But with the distance being what it is I’m not sure what my next move should be, and whether I should be making it before, during or after the upcoming trip. Then if we do hit things off, what’s the best way to approach a long distance relationship to avoid it being the fiery disaster I’m worried it could be.
I’m willing to put in the work, but first I want to figure out if there’s actually something to put work into. Do you have any advice?
Thanks so much!
Hopeless International Romantic
DEAR HOPELESS INTERNATIONAL ROMANTIC: What you need to do right now, HIC, is slow the hell down. A lot. You have jumped a good six moves ahead of where you actually are. This isn’t just putting the cart before the horse, there is no cart to put in front of the horse. Right now, what you have is some flirty talk in the DMs and vague plans to meet up while you’re on vacation. These do not an impending relationship make.
Straight talk here, HIC: you’re making a mistake that a lot of folks make when they don’t have much in the way of social or dating experience. You’re assuming that emotional chemistry is exactly the same as physical chemistry. The fact that you two spark when you trade DMs back and forth like a modern day Abelard and Heloise tells you that you two are on the same wavelength, but there’s a physical component to attraction that can’t be denied or circumvented. The truth is that no matter how enlightened we may claim to be as individuals, but you may love someone for their mind but you want them for their ass.
What works between two people in text doesn’t necessarily translate when the two of you are face to face. Humans as a species are designed for face to face communication. There are reams of information that we convey in the tone of voice, in our body language and even in scent and touch that just can’t be conveyed by text. Even regular Skype sessions can’t quite convey the physical side of things when you’re in person with one another. No amount of FaceTime can equal the gut reaction you have when you smell, touch or even kiss someone for the first time. You could well find yourself in the position of meeting up in person and realizing that you’re not quite so warm for her form as you thought, or vice versa. Or you might find that you’re kind of into her, but not so much as you expected to be. Now you’re in the awkward position of asking yourself whether you try to move forward despite being kinda “…enh” about her or choosing to be friends instead.
And that’s before we even address the question of whether she’s still into you. Right now you’re tying yourself into knots trying to figure out whether or not she’s still into you and it’s draining the excitement from your upcoming trip. You’ve built up this idea that this trip is going to be the start of a grand romance; if that doesn’t happen, then that’s going to taint what might otherwise be an awesome trip.
You can already see this playing out with the way you’re interacting with your crush. When you were just in the moment and just talking with her like anyone else, you were doing so much better. Now that you feel like there’re consequences, you’re tensing up and second and third-guessing every single thing you say. It’s draining all the fun playfulness the two of you had going on when there were no stakes.
One of the best things you can do – in dating in general and on this trip in particular – is be outcome independent. If you’re focused on getting with this one particular person OR ELSE, you’re going to psych yourself out. You’re going to invest this one person with terrible significance and subject yourself to any amount of anxiety as you try to read the tea leaves and tell whether or not she’s into you. But if you remain outcome independent and focused on just enjoying yourself, you remain calm and relaxed. You don’t scrutinize everything you say and she does because hey, if it doesn’t work out, then it doesn’t work out. The only important question is whether you’re having fun.
So it should be with this upcoming trip and any potential relationship with your crush. Focus on just enjoying the trip and the possibility of meeting an Internet friend in person. Everything beyond that is gravy. Do that and you’ll be in a much better position to handle whatever it is that comes your way.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 23F looking to start seriously dating again after being single for about half a year. But I don’t know how (or when!) to tell any future boyfriends that one of my closest friends is my ex. We broke up on good terms after 3.5 years, when we finished undergrad. He lives on the other side of the world now.
He and I transitioned pretty easily back to being the great friends we were pre-relationship. We text a good amount and call about twice a month, I’m in his Skype d&d campaign, my mom messages him sometimes. We have clear boundaries in that we established early on where our line of platonic-ness is and how to not go over it and make things uncomfortable (like not teasing, even though we tease other friends, in case it comes across as flirting). Everything’s been totally fine–we even give each other relationship advice.
Even though this feels normal to me, especially because my best friends have historically been guys, I don’t know how to handle the “ex” part of my friend situation with future relationships. I can’t just not talk about him – it would feel weirdly sneaky, and I have too many stories that involve him. But when do I bring it up, and how? Knowing us, our friends thought it was a given that we would pop right back into being friends after we broke up. But I feel like to a new date it would seem weird.
DEAR PERMANENTLY PLATONIC: There’s really not much to explain, PP. “How do you guys know each other?” “We dated for a while, it didn’t work out, we realized we were better off as friends”. Boom, done.
It might be more complicated (but not much) if the two of you were living together or had an incredibly close platonic relationship where you were constant physical presences in each other’s lives that might seem romantic to an outsider. But he’s your best friend, you talk regularly and you’re in the same D&D campaign. None of that’s going to so much as twitch an eyebrow for anyone who’s cool.
Now somebody who’s insecure may have issues with this. But they’d likely have problems with the fact you have “too many” (read: any) male friends, never mind that your BFF is a guy you used to date. So if somebody freaks out over the fact that your best friend is your ex – as opposed to realizing that being on good terms with your ex is a good thing – then that’s as strong a sign that they’re not right for you as you’re likely to find.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a problem. I really like this junior in my high school (I’m a sophomore). I share two classes with him. We’ve talked a lot over Discord and message each other every once in a while and talk in school, but I don’t know what to do. I’ve had the feeling he likes me too, but of course there’s no way for me to know whether or not that’s true.
That’s where the problem lies: I’m at a standstill. I want to be around him and talk to him more but I don’t know for sure whether he likes me back and wants to do that too or not. I really like him and would like to start a serious relationship but I don’t know what to do or where I’m standing here. I feel like he hovers around me sometimes and wants to talk, but we both don’t know what to say or maybe he’s shy. And he also holds eye contact longer than usual and sometimes starts conversations with me. But then at times I’ll feel like he’s avoiding me or trying to stay away or maybe I’m coming off as rude.
Should I wait for him? Should I say something? Am I overthinking things? My point is, I want to keep moving forward but I don’t know what to do anymore and then I start thinking he doesn’t like me which throws me into a mild state of depression and it’s at the point where something needs to change. Do you have any advice? I’m just confusing and depressing myself further the longer this goes on.
Thanks so much,
A Confused Person
DEAR A CONFUSED PERSON: There’s a very easy way to find out if he likes you or not: use your words. Quit hemming and hawwing and waiting for signs, muscle up and just ask him out on a date.
He’s either going to say “yes” or he’ll give you the Let’s Just Be Friends speech. Either way, you’ll get your answer and know for sure instead of always wondering “maybe but what about”.
And if it’s the case that he’s just not into you that way… well, it’s a shame but now you’re free to find someone else who digs what you have to offer, instead of getting stuck in a constant loop of insecurity and uncertainty.
And as an aside: it’s a good idea to get in the habit of being proactive about your interest instead of sitting around waiting and trying to read the tea leaves. The more time you spend trying to gauge someone’s interest – which, let’s be real, is mostly about trying to avoid rejection – the harder it gets to actually make a move. You spend so long building up the importance of the question that you end up paralyzed, on the chance that he may reject you. Learn to get comfortable with taking the risk.
It means that yes, you’ll get rejected (like everyone does), but it also means you’ll quickly learn that rejection doesn’t hurt more than you allow it to.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)