DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I knew this woman through Twitter last year, we share the same favorite TV show and I want to live in her part of the world, I’m studying her language. We communicated through Twitter throughout the year, liking each other’s tweets and learning about our lives from it.
Things started to change last month, when she’s started ignoring my comments and questions, even though we still had some chats and I still received her likes. Things got worse with every passing week, and tonight I couldn’t take it anymore, I DMed her, asking if I had done something wrong.
Yes, she said. She said we seemed to have different thoughts on our relationship, and she didn’t like it that I added her on other social media besides Twitter. Turns out we also have different cultures – in my culture acquaintances easily add each other on Facebook, in her culture it’s reserved for close friends.
The good news is she didn’t block me and we are still mutuals on Twitter. The bad news is she asked me to step back because I was being too intense.
Turns out I still repeat the same mistake I did in college. Two friends I liked literally running away from me and I didn’t understand what’s going on – no touch, no lewd talk, but it happened. We remained friends, but I had scared them away. Another love interest ghosted me, and when we had a chance meeting, I was so lucky she prevented the store assistant from calling the police as I was weeping inside the store.
Some people have asked me to dial it down when chasing a woman, and I thought I’ve got it, especially now I write column for a feminist website. Turns out I’ve made lives miserable for both me and another person because of my bad habit.
My question is, how does I control my intensity? How can I attract a woman better without scaring her? How can I win her trust gradually? How can I differentiate between being caring & supportive and being overbearing?
DEAR TOO INTENSE: Y’know, TI, at first, I was going to chalk this one up to a difference in how folks use social media. Some people collect followers and connections on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and so on while others prefer to use it strictly as a way of staying in contact with close friends and family. A clash in these philosophies can create conflicts that could otherwise be avoided.
Then I got to the part about friends literally running away. And the line about your freaking someone out because you ran into them in the store.
Look my dude, you don’t just come on too strong, it sounds like you’re getting so caught up in emotion that you’re blowing through people’s boundaries like they’re not even there. Even if we’re allowing for the fact that you aren’t touching people inappropriately or saying inappropriate things… there’s a lot of room for making people deeply, intensely uncomfortable through your behavior. And a lot of it seems to stem from the fact that you have absolutely no awareness of how your behavior comes off to other people. I mean, I hate to say it, but if you’re not engaging in hyperbole in your letter but you have literally had friends run away or had the cops come on you then the problem here isn’t that you’re coming off as too intense, it’s that you’re coming off like a psychopath.
I mean, ok I get it. I get being so into somebody or so excited by someone that you get a little over the top, in ways that make people uncomfortable. It’s a little like being an over-eager golden retriever who wants all of the attention, all of the time. In its mind, it just wants to play with its new friend. But in its enthusiasm, it’s not recognizing how it’s destroying the living room, digging up the carpet, chewing on all the furniture and leaping all over people who aren’t comfortable with big dogs.
You may not mean to be causing all of this discomfort. You clearly aren’t aware of it. But not being aware of it really isn’t an excuse. Not when it keeps happening to you over and over again, especially when people keep bringing it up to you.
It sounds to me like there are two problems here. The first is that you seem intensely needy. It’s one thing to be excited and enthusiastic about a new friendship or relationship. But many times, when we have low self-esteem or feel like we aren’t “worthy” of relationships, we can start getting incredibly pushy and clingy and emotionally over-invest in people. We want to lock those relationships down as quickly and as firmly as possible, before they can realize that they made a mistake by getting with us. We want to eliminate the possibility that they may find someone else cooler, more attractive, more interesting or more “worthy” than us so we want to occupy all of their time, spend all of our time with them and otherwise just make sure that we are their entire world. Otherwise they might stop liking us and that would be a goddamn tragedy.
But it’s rare that we recognize this behavior for what it is. More often than not, we just chalk it up as “being excited” or “being a hopeless romantic” or “having a big personality”, not realizing just how we’re demanding a far greater level of intimacy or connection than is actually warranted. And that results in behavior that is DEEPLY disturbing to people on the receiving end of it. And by even the most charitable reading, it sounds to me like you didn’t just assume a greater level of of friendship than actually existed, you started behaving like you were the only person in their lives.
I mean being ghosted absolutely sucks, but reacting so over the top at a chance encounter that the shop-owners felt like they needed to call the goddamn police? That’s some next level s
The second problem is that you’re very self-centered. I don’t mean this in the sense that you’re selfish, I mean this in the sense that you seem to be completely unaware of how other people feel. The way you describe things makes it seem like things had escalated to such a degree that people were literally running from you and you hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten until that point. And this wasn’t one time, this is multiple times over the span of years. That’s not good dude. That’s not a case of “not good at reading people”, that’s “verging on being oblivious” or “living in my own version of reality”.
Now here’s the thing: this is clearly not something that’s entirely out of your control. All of your examples of this behavior are with women, which tells me that this is selective behavior. If you’re able to control your “intensity” with men, then you’re able to control that same intensity with women. Yeah, you may not be sexually attracted to men, but the fact that you can apparently recognize that acting like this with guys you know would be bad means that you have the capability of acting like this with women. Even women you’ve got a crush on.
Right now, the last thing you should be doing is wondering how to win people’s trust or avoid scaring away women you’re attracted to. You need to get this s
t under control by, like, yesterday. Frankly, I think the best thing you could do is start looking for a therapist, especially a therapist who helps people deal with emotional issues and social awareness. This is the sort of thing that you need a trained mental health professional for because man it is beyond the pay-grade of a loudmouth with an advice column. You need to put in a lot of work at not just learning how to let go of your neediness and regulate how emotionally invested you get in people, but in learning how to read the goddamn room. You’ve been missing a lot of warning signs and signals and it keeps leading to increasingly extreme confrontations with people. You’ve been lucky so far, but it’s the sort of thing that could very easily have consequences for you, including getting fired from your job.
Focus on getting better. Dating can wait until you’re in a better place.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)