DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I think need some advice. I have problems with my self worth when it comes to “after dating situations”.
In the past I had a few relationships but none of them lasted for more than a few months. I realized I was a nice guy and started to fix it (and stumbled upon your blog at that time). There were many dates since then, but they always ended the same. We would go out once and then she gradually stopped responding to my messages (even calls in one case), without any explanation and I’ve never heard from her anymore. Even though the date seemed fine, I tried to learn from every rejection and avoid mistakes I’ve made before I felt like I’ve failed.
Since I saw these rejections as failures it accumulated somewhere inside me and I started being anxious after every date. There were thoughts like “What if she won’t respond? What if it will end as usual and I’ll get rejected? What did I do wrong? She’s online and she saw my message, why hadn’t she responded already?”. My mind comes up with catastrophic scenarios and I worry about things that didn’t even happen.
Sometimes it comes to checking my smartphone every now and then which is the behavior I wanted to avoid and which makes me even more anxious.
Basically my self worth drops and the confidence I felt during the date is nothing but dust.
Recent example: I went out with a woman, everything seemed well. I decided to stay cool, enjoy the evening and spark the interest in her. There were some minor fuckups but she was fine with it. During the evening she briefly told me about a guy she’s going to meet which was enough to start doubts in me (why did she do that in the first place?). When I was paying for her after the dinner (first date) she objected but then she was like “I’ll pay when we’ll meet for the next time” (which ignited the hope for the next date in me and that she was interested). She responds to my messages after that evening although I’m almost always the one who initiates the conversation. My anxiety and negative thoughts intensified when I saw a post from that guy (and her response to it).
My question is: How to deal with these thoughts and catastrophic scenarios and how to maintain my self worth?
Worst Case Scenario Vision
DEAR WORST CASE SCENARIO VISION: Alright, WCSV, I want you to go back to a letter I answered last week about why a friendship was fizzling out. Do you see what I just said to Nukes and Friendship about relationships? A lot of that applies to you, too. The issue you’re having here is that you’re emotionally over-investing in these dates with people you barely know. In many ways, first dates are like a sample from the deli or the ice cream parlor: you’re trying to decide if you’re at all interested before you commit to buying a full order. Getting hung up on someone you’ve only had one date with – even if it was a pretty good date – is how you set yourself up for unnecessary heartbreak. You don’t know this person well enough to warrant giving them so much importance that checking your phone is enough to give you anxiety. The truth is that they’re still functionally a stranger to you. A hot stranger, quite possibly. A stranger that you had a good time with. But still a stranger.
The goal of a first date is simple: you want to connect with them and see if there’s enough mutual interest and chemistry to warrant seeing each other again. If there isn’t, then it’s a shame… but there are millions of other potential partners out there. This was just one that didn’t work out.
Now it sucks that things haven’t worked out with these women you’ve been dating, but most of what you’ve been learning is that these are women who, for whatever reason, you’re not compatible with. A lot of that is simply out of your control. Dating is a numbers game; you do what you can to maximize the odds that the people you’re meeting are right for you, but there’s always going to be that element of unpredictability when people are involved. Sometimes you get lucky right off the bat. Other times you have to search around for a while. You may meet the wrong person… or you may meet the right person at the wrong time. The only thing you can do is make sure you’re working on your side of the equation.
Part of that is making sure that you’re taking the right lessons from these dates. It doesn’t do you any good if you’re going on these dates and assuming that, for example, you need to overcompensate for your Nice Guy past and be a snarky asshole. On the other hand, you could still be acting TOO nice and coming across less as a potential partner and more as a pushover. You might be spending too much time trying to impress your date and not enough time trying to connect with them.
This is why I recommend that guys who what to get better at dating should keep a journal. Whenever you go out and approach people or go out on dates, write down as much as you possibly can about what happened — what you said, what they said, how they responded, how you felt in the moment, etc. Try to keep as strictly objective as you can; report what happened without judging or analyzing or making assumptions about how the other person felt or what they thought. This gives you data, and lets you look for patterns that may indicate particular sticking points.
The same goes with examining the aftermath of said dates. If your conversations are regularly trailing off, see if you can pinpoint exactly where the shift seems to occur and if it’s happening at more or less the same time. It could be, for example, that you’re a little over-eager and that’s putting people off. On the other hand, it could also be that they just weren’t feeling it and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Which is a difficult truth: sometimes there isn’t anything to find. Sometimes the issue isn’t anything that you’re doing but the people you’re dating.
That’s why ultimately, the answer to getting better at dating is… to go on more dates and try doing things differently. You can study the theory all you want but the only way you can gain those levels in dating is to go out and grind ’em out in the field.
And incidentally: don’t sweat getting ghosted so much. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, ghosting has become part of the dating landscape. It’s rude and it can be disheartening, but at the end of the day, it says far more about them than it does about you. The only thing you can do about it is be the change you want to see in dating.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)