DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: So, long story short I am 21 and a long time lone wolf who was recently diagnosed with PTSD/Anxiety/Depression from a f
ked up childhood who has worked on challenging negative core beliefs with my therapist. I have made some good progress too.
I intellectually no longer see my mental health conditions as a bouquet of red flags that make me undatable or unattractive (Hell just writing that is making me facepalm with how stupid it sounds. How could any of that possibly be a flaw with my morals or character?) Now the main goal will be to keep that mindset when I get emotionally triggered.
Hell, the opposite is true. I am very datable. I have a quick-wit for humor and am just someone who likes to make sure everyone who hangs out with me is comfortable. I love bowling, cooking, and The Legend of Zelda series. My career goals are to get my Masters or Psy. D. in Clinical Psychology and become a licensed therapist so to say I am driven is an understatement. I went from a childhood house(s) in which the chief main concern was “will my mother have enough pills so she won’t withdrawal tonight?” to a damn near free ride to a top 50 university (of course, currently living with my father and mother who is now 4 years clean) so how can I be in any sense of the word a failure?
If only I could think like that during my anxiety episodes.
So celebrating my mental health success and newfound positive identity aside, I did have one question to ask.
I have absolutely no interest in ONS and seeing as most romantic relationships are started by being introduced by friends I was wondering when is the quote on quote “appropriate” time to ask someone out after you first meet them. Obviously you don’t want to wait too long as you will Friend Zone yourself but, in the same sense it doesn’t seem like “Hi I’m RTP and I just met you. Want to grab a drink?” would end well either as there wouldn’t be any established connection. Then again I don’t know how this dating thing really works anyway so I could be completely wrong.
Oh well, might as well suss this out now seeing as we are likely to have a lot of time on our hands before I can actually get back out there.
-Rejoining the Pack
DEAR REJOINING THE PACK: Congratulations on your progress, RtP! You’ve made some huge strides in your life and you should be justly proud of everything you’ve achieved. So should you mother for that matter; getting clean and sober is no easy feat. These are success stories that should be celebrated.
Now as for your question: this is actually much simpler than you realize. People put far too much importance on the idea of a universal timeline when it comes to dating and attraction, and there really isn’t. The point when it’s appropriate to ask someone out is far more based on social context and calibration than it is length of time. Asking someone out at a funeral? Not really appropriate. Asking them out a couple hours after having been introduced by a friend at a party? Far more appropriate.
What I always suggest is that once you’ve met someone and you’re both having a good time talking with one another, then the time to ask them on a date is… well, pretty much then. It may not always be possible when you first meet them, but asking sooner is usually better than later. Not only do you make it clear that you’re interested in them as a potential lover rather than a friend, but you don’t end up with someone else asking them out before you had the chance.
There’re a couple ways of doing this. One of the easiest is to find things that you both enjoy and then suggest a date based around those. Did you find that you both like bowling? Awesome… hey, would she like to go bowl some frames this Saturday?
Alternately, you can do what’s called “seeding the date” by discussing something that you’re planning on doing (or want to do) that weekend or the weekend after. Then, towards the end of the conversation you can say “Hey, you know what? I think you might really dig that art exhibition I’m going to on Friday. I’d love to take you if you’re free.”
Or you could even say “Hey, I’m having a great time talking to you. I know this awesome bar/coffee shop/ice cream parlor; would you like to get a drink/frozen yogurt some time? Cool, I’m available at these times, what does your schedule look like?”
Hell, if all that happens is that you connect on Facebook or WhatsApp or you exchange numbers, you can simply propose a date by combining two different ideas. “Hey, how do you feel about cocktails and pinball? There’s this barcade I’ve been meaning to hit up and I think you’d really enjoy it. I’d love to take you this Saturday.”
The key is to have a specific activity and a specific day and time; you want to give them a reason to want to see you. “Hey let’s hang out some time” is too vague and too wishy-washy. What does hanging out entail? When is “some time”? This leaves far too much in the air or, worse, puts the responsibility of planning on her shoulders — something you want to avoid. Having a specific activity gives her something to look forward to. A specific date and time makes it easier to plan; if she’s not available on those days, then she can propose a different day or time. Proposing both makes it clear that you’re not expecting her to do most of the heavy lifting to make this date happen.
So don’t worry about the timing, so much as how you both feel. If there’s attraction there and you’ve been having a good time talking… go ahead and propose a date. In a worst case scenario, you’ll know she’s not interested and you’ll be able to move on.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com