DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m in my early 20s, female, and at university. I’m short, kinda chubby, and more-than-kind-of a nerd. From a young age, I’ve wanted to be in a romantic relationship. Had a few long-term crushes through middle school, but nothing ever came to fruition. I figured it was just the small school, and that when I got to high school I would have more options and more opportunities. But I had the same issue, only this time I wasn’t single. I ended up dating a guy because I thought that was what you were supposed to do, regardless if you liked him or not. He was horrible but I dated him for seven months, while I had a crush on someone else. The following year, I realized I was bisexual and fell for my best friend. She was kind, but firmly rejected me; we are still best friends to this day. So I graduate, move on to college and I meet a guy I really think could be “the one”. We had an incredible connection with intense flirting and I thought that this was finally going to be the relationship I’ve wanted, but then I find out he’s been pursuing someone else and they end up together.
Since then, dating has been a huge drag. More times than not, I’ll meet someone who’s already infatuated with me for all of the wrong reasons and have to break up with them or I’ll meet someone who I really like and think might be good for me and get turned down. For a while, I thought maybe it was my weight or looks, but I see plenty of girls who look like me in happy, long-term relationships. I’ve asked my friends multiple times to tell me what I’m doing wrong and they always say “nothing, you’re perfect”. I’ve been on-and-off online dating for the past two years, but 99% of people I match with are either lewd, dull, or homophobic. The other 1% never messages back.
A recent development pushed me to write this letter. In order to help him recover from a bad relationship, my good friend of five years and I both redownloaded Tinder. We’re very similar people; both of us have problems with anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. When we first downloaded the app and started using it, we noticed that I was getting way more people swiping right on me. By the end of the two weeks, I had over 50 matches and he had six. I’ve been on a few dates and nothing has really come of it; the same problems I’ve had before persisted. He went on his first Tinder date ever last night and I’m pretty sure he met his soulmate. At this point, I have nowhere else mentally to turn. If it’s not my appearance and it’s not my mental issues then what is it that makes me so unattractive to the people I’ve liked? I feel like I’ve been making enormous social strides but I don’t even leave these dates with a friend, let alone a partner. Please Doc, tell me what I’m doing wrong.
Loveless Murphy’s Law
DEAR LOVELESS MURPHY’S LAW: Here’s something advice columnists aren’t supposed to tell you, LML: sometimes there’s not really a lot to be done. We’re supposed to have magic insight and actionable advice, but the fact is that sometimes the issue has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the fact that life sucks sometimes. To quote the sage: you can commit no mistakes and still lose. That’s not weakness. That’s life.
And the truth is that dating often involves a factors that are completely outside of your control. A lot of times, the difference between finding someone incredible and another date to nowhere is just a matter of chance and timing. You may have closed your dating app just as Mr. Right was logging in. You may have met someone awesome, but not at a time when you or they were in a place where they could date. Just as with blackjack, you can influence the odds as much as you can, but chance still controls the outcome.
The key is that you can’t take it personally. It’s hard, I realize. It’s really goddamn difficult to look at all these happy couples and wonder what’s wrong with you. But you’re not seeing what you think you’re seeing. You’re not seeing the whole picture; you’re just seeing a tiny fraction of what they’ve gone through to get where they are – and that’s before we factor in whether they’re actually a happy couple.
It seems like they don’t have to struggle the way that you have because you’re comparing their highlight reel to your unedited footage. It’s all a matter of perspective. Anybody can look like a massive success if you only see the end-point, not the whole journey.
But their success – real or perceived – doesn’t have anything to do with you. They’re all on their own journey and living entirely different lives. The fact that your friend found a soulmate is good for him, but it has nothing to do with you. For all the similarities you have, he’s living a different story than you. He’s going to have completely different experiences than you because he’s not you.
The key is to remember how much of this is out of your hands and focus on what you can control. You may not be able to force the universe to give you what you want, but you can set yourself up for success. You do what you can in terms of your presentation and putting yourself out there and meeting the right people, and then… you roll with what life gives you.
Some days it won’t come easy. Some days it won’t come hard. And there will be days when it doesn’t come at all. You may need to take breaks to rebuild your strength. That’s fine. Take a break. Love will be waiting for you when you’re ready to give it another try.
It won’t be simple or easy… but nobody ever said that it would be. They just said that it would be worth it.
I’ve seen plenty of people who’ve been in your exact position, LML. They had the exact same problems, the same sense of despair and the fear that they’d be forever alone.
And I’ve been to their weddings.
Hang in there.
All will be well.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)