DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I was wondering if you or anyone else have been noticing this trend of being really compatible with someone in text and being shy and awkward when actually meeting with them. I guess I should provide some background first to illustrate what I mean.
I’m 29 and a bit inexperienced when it comes to dating. And when I mean inexperienced, I mean I’ve only kissed one girl two times and fooled around with another without it going all the way. I’m sure you can extrapolate from there. Suffice it to say, I’ve barely an idea on what to do when it comes to touching women. Fast forward to now.
I’ve been seeing this 23 year-old girl I met on OKCupid for a couple of months now. We’d exchanged a few emails until I finally asked her out to coffee. She gave me her number and asked me to text her so we could set something up. After finally getting up the nerve, I sent the initial text after which we talked for quite a while. We were surprised to see how comfortable we were texting each other. The way she put it, it was like we were old friends. This definitely made me feel better about meeting up with her.
So we met for coffee, which went well enough. There were definite signs of awkwardness on both sides, but I totally expected that. No worries! We hugged goodbye and agreed to meet up again.
We’ve had several meetings since then, yet all with differing results. In between meetings we keep in touch on text where we banter and flirt well and even sext with each other at points. However, in person, we’re a lot more reserved and almost scared to touch each other. We’ve cuddled and kissed (again, with differing results), but I feel unable to take things further than that or act on things that I’ve said to her in text. There are other issues, but for the sake of brevity, the texting thing seems to be the main one.
I took to reading quite a few of your articles to understand more about how to build chemistry, getting past the touch barrier, ways to make her feel comfortable around me, etc. Even with all that, we’ve both noticed that we seem unable to translate our texting rapport, if we could call it that, into our in-person encounters.
I really don’t feel like I’m the only one experiencing this either. My little sister, who only just began dating and is part of a generation that’s more used to texting has seen the same thing where she’ll find herself being honest and open in text, yet shy and reserved when near the guy she’s seeing. Really surprised me to hear that.
I know texting has its obvious advantages over constant phone calls, but I wonder if maybe my sister and I (and possibly others) have come to rely on it too much. If so, what can we do to fix the issue? Or is there some other issue I’m simply not seeing?
Thanks for listening and keep up the good work!
DEAR TEXTING JUNKIE: From the sounds of it, you’re both on the shy side of things and relatively inexperienced.
The thing you may have noticed is that texting is a disinhibiter when it comes to communication. When you’re not immediately in somebody’s presence – or even talking to them on the phone – it’s easy to overcome your natural shyness and reticence and say things that you might never say in person. You’re less likely to feel judged or awkward because it simply feels like there are fewer consequences; in a very literal way, people almost feel less “real”, which means the stakes are functionally lower and you’re able to let your guard down a little more.
When you’re together in person, however, things can be a little different. Now you’re actually there, you’re experiencing the difference between what’s essentially a fantasy and the reality… and the reality is way more intense. You may have had all kinds of dirty talk via texting or email or IM, but now that you’re together in person there’s body heat and you can feel her breath on your skin and smell her hair and you’ve noticed that your hands are shaking because now you’re trying to actually recreate what you were talking about and the stakes feel so much higher and how are you supposed to pull off those things you were talking about, what if you do things wrong or they get weird or maybe they have second thoughts or, or, or…
(Incidentally: This is the difference between dating someone online and dating them in person. No matter how hot and heavy you two may get online, even via Skype, there’s nothing equivalent to being in the same room with somebody, letting your pheromones wash over one another and feeling the intense sensations that only physical presence can bring).
Now there are two likely causes for the problem here. The first is that it could very well be that you’re just not that into each other or she’s not that into you physically but feels like she should be after the way she’s been flirting up a storm via her phone.
The second is that you’re both just shy and reserved and feeling the pressure to live up to everything you’d been saying via text. Either way: the key here is that you need to just relax and use your words.
You mention reading over the articles on chemistry and trying to make her feel comfortable, but you don’t mention whether or not you’ve actually talked about how shy and reserved you’re both feeling. You’re both feeling awkward and uptight, even though you both know you’re into each other. You know the best way to kill the awkward? Call it out. Just say “you know what? I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling kind of awkward and nervous right about now.” Own your awkward feeling. Be willing to admit it exists. Let yourself be vulnerable and just own up to the fact that you’re feeling weird and shy and isn’t it ridiculous?
I think you’d be surprised by her reaction; I’m willing to bet that she will just about explode with relief that somebody said it and now it’s out in the open instead of the two of you just pretending that it doesn’t exist and trying to force your way around it. Don’t try to force a resolution – don’t just say “this is awkward, we should be able to suck face ok, 1, 2, 3 GO” – but just bring it up. Talk about it. Explain how you’re feeling and encourage her to explain how she’s feeling. And be especially willing to laugh at yourselves over it. That laughter will help release the tension… and will help you with what happens next.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)