DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 25 year old woman with a slight problem… I think.
You see, pretty much my whole life, I’ve only seemed to be able to become interested in girls I’ve been friends with for a while. By a while I mean a few months to a year. I’ve only been in 3 relationships of any length and that’s only because the friends I was interested in made the first move in those cases. So far, I’ve only had one friend react horribly to me voicing my feelings but one was enough to make me afraid to do it again.
I’ve tried online dating not because I felt like “I need a girlfriend so let me jump on OkCupid for a bit.” (I’ve never felt the “need a girlfriend” thing as in “I have a girlfriend shaped space in my life that I’m taking auditions for” sort of thing. I’m either interested in someone or I’m not, which in a way might be part of the issue.) but more as a prophylactic against having to deal with a friend-crush yet again. Each attempt was disappointing. I kept being torn between (a) trying to go on more dates with a cool-seeming girl in hopes that maybe at some point I might feel something and possibly stringing them along in the process or (b)drop the cool-seeming girl I’m not really feeling any attraction to and try to find someone elseI might feel that spark more quickly with which I inevitably won’t and end up considering repeating (a) in the process.
Even people I’ve known for not long enough who show interest in me don’t seem to have an effect. One girl I met about 8 months ago started showing some signs and I wasn’t feeling it. After about 3-4 months she stopped and then 4 months later BOOM, guess who’s interested? ME of course!
But my question isn’t so much about how to find a girlfriend (though feel free to tack that on if you’ve got it, Doc.) but rather, how do you go through life knowing you’ll be in this situation over and over again with the scary-as-hell specter of Nice Guys/Girls and backdoor friendship gambits? I really do care about the friends I have (especially since I warm up to friends very slowly too) and I don’t want any of them to have to worry about why I became friends with them in the first place or to have to inventory every nice thing I’ve done for them to check it for traces of slime.
Is there any sort of heads-up I can give new of existing friends that says “Hey, I’m not a cowardly backdoor-ing friendship-swindler. This is just how I’m wired to the best of my knowledge.”? Is there any way I can somehow generate interest in someone who isn’t quite doing it for me yet so I can actually “strike while the iron is hot” as the advice normally goes?
Any help is very much appreciated.
I Don’t Wanna Date in Vain
DEAR I DON’T WANNA DATE IN VAIN: There’s actually a term for people who have the attraction pattern that you have, IDWDIV: it’s called “demisexuality.”
Just as sexual orientation falls on a spectrum, sexual desire and attraction patterns also fall along a spectrum. Some people have the more common pattern of attraction (they feel sexual desire easily, often for many people, without needing a strong emotional connection) on one end, while some can take or leave sex and some at the far end may feel no sexual desire whatsoever. Demisexuality is a part of that spectrum; it means that you develop sexual attraction for somebody when you start to form an emotional connection or feel emotional intimacy with somebody. The sexual attraction tends to be developed over time as you get to know them and create those emotionally intimate bonds. While the term is relatively new, more and more people are starting to recognize that it’s how they’re wired.
I’d recommend checking out the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network at asexuality.org, which can provide a whole host of resources about asexuality and demisexuality, as well help connect you with communities of people who have similar experiences. This can help you learn more and help you realize that you’re not unusual — or that you can’t date or find people who will want to date you.
The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to date at your own pace, whether you want to try dating someone you may not feel strongly for yet, or whether you want to wait until you actually do have feelings for them.
And it’s totally fine to go on a date or two to decide if someone seems like they might be somebody you COULD grow to care for. You don’t need – nor are you generally expected to – to be in love within three dates. It’s OK to date people you generally like and enjoy spending time with, even if you’re not feeling the hearts and cartoon birds feelings yet. Just be upfront with them that you take time to really connect with someone. Let them know that this is how you work and give them the option to decide whether that’s something they’d want to opt-in for.
As for platonic friends you get crushes on: it’s cool. Crushes happen. The problem with the Platonic Best Friend Backdoor Gambit is when you’re not genuinely friends with them and are only waiting for that moment of weakness you can exploit. You can have a crush on someone without needing to do something about it. You’re welcome to just enjoy that feeling without taking it as an imperative to turn it into something more.
The difference between someone who’s trying to Nice Guy or Nice Girl their way into somebody’s pants is that they are deceiving the person they supposedly care for. They’re friends under false pretenses, trying to use their platonic relationship as a way to sneak themselves into a sexual or romantic one.
That’s vastly different from genuinely being friends with someone and developing feelings; this happens all the time.
The way that you avoid people thinking that you’re just trying to backdoor your way into their heart and/or their pants is to live with integrity. Being honest and living and behaving in the ways that align with your values demonstrates to others that it’s not that your friendship comes with an agenda, it’s that they’re an awesome person that you care for, and your feelings have evolved from friendship to romantic.
If you’re not trying to force a friendship into a relationship, then odds are nobody will really make a fuss about it or throw accusations of your trying to Nice Girl your way into their pants. If it becomes an issue: again, just be up front. Take ownership of it: “hey, listen, I think you’re really cool and I’ve sorta developed this crush on you. It’s not a big deal, it’s not something you need to respond to and I really enjoy being your friend. It’s just something that happens to me on occasion.”
They’ll take their lead from you: if you don’t treat it as something shameful or awkward, then they won’t treat it that way either.
But then again: you may also find that they’ve developed feelings of their own.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: Why does seem not ok to reject a girl’s offer of friendship after a failed romantic gesture?
I don’t mean forcing a woman into a romantic situation but rather saying, “No, I really don’t want to have a friendship with you. I respect your decision not be romantic but I don’t think that friendship would be a good for me.” I’ve tried to explain that I don’t feel we’re entering on equal grounds into the friendship, that the woman is dictating the terms of the friendship. Moreover, that in order to not cross her boundaries I have to become emotionally and sexually repressive, which leads to being emotionally cut to the other person and to waves of frustration.
In addition, I’m an Asian male so the playing the friend role makes me feel like I’m living in a cultural stereotype.
Yet, consistently, I’ve been told that I’m being unfair or that I’m obligating them into a romantic situation. I feel like I’ve become the bad guy in a way I don’t understand. By not accepting their offer of friendship, I’ve pressured them into a role they don’t want to play. So the reverse happens, I am now pressured into a role I don’t want to play or feel is demeaning to my person. I feel I’ve become morally obligated to be repressed, that I have to willing acknowledge that what I want doesn’t matter.
Trying to Avoid The Friend Zone
DEAR TRYING TO AVOID THE FRIEND ZONE: Just as someone isn’t required to date you, you’re not required to be their friend if that’s not what you’re looking for. The only thing is to be upfront without being rude.
I suspect that there are lines of communication being crossed here, TATFZ. If you’re presenting it the way you say: that you think they’re an awesome person, but you don’t think you could be their friend in good faith and so you’re pulling back, then it really shouldn’t be an issue. You’re being upfront and sincere and hopefully not giving the impression that you think that friendship with them is the conciliation prize. It should be fairly cut and dry.
So either you’re not quite sending the message you think you are, or somewhere along the lines, somebody is hearing “You’re awesome but the relationship you want isn’t what I want, and I respect you enough to not pretend otherwise, peace out Cub Scout” and deciding that this is some sort of pressure tactic without any real reason to do so.
However, if you’re suddenly being incredibly cold to them… well, I can understand why they might feel like you’re trying to do a relationship equivalent of the freeze out, especially if they’re someone you interact with on a regular basis or someone you might have been friends with prior to asking them out. In that case, you may need to explain in a little more detail that you’re going to have to pull back for a while so that you aren’t frustrating yourself or putting pressure on them and that it’s about you managing your feelings, not about them.
If that’s not the case, if it really is that they just don’t want you leaving on your terms or want you to stick around even when it’s going to be painful to you, that’s their damage, not yours.
In general however, I’d suggest leaving out the bit about women dictating the terms of the friendship. I realize that you mean that you feel that the relationship would be one-sided, but the way you’re saying it is never going to come across as anything other than a “f
k you for rejecting me.” Framing it as “I feel that I don’t think I could be your friend while I still have these romantic/sexual feelings for you, and trying to force it would only end up hurting both of us,” carries the same message without making it about someone “dictating terms” or trying to force you into something you don’t want.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org