DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: When I am dating a woman, I feel very frustrated in trying to decide whether to text her or if I should be absent for a day or two. Mainly because I heard that you shouldn’t contact her until she texts or sends a message to you.
Personally I think that this is not true… Or maybe not entirely true, but I’m asking this question to you, Doc.
When should we text or contact the woman we are dating without seeming needy and without being creepy?
Waiting So Long
DEAR WAITING SO LONG: Man, I could write a book about best practices when it comes to texting and DMs…
(No, really, I did. Check out “I Got Her Number… Now What?”, available from Amazon in print and for your Kindle)
You don’t say whether you mean in the context of someone you’ve been on a couple of dates with (or are trying to arrange a date with) or if you’ve just met. Either way though: you go with the flow.
Let’s say that you meant “you just got her number” and you’re not sure when to send a text or are waiting for her to make the first move. Some women will beat you to the punch, but you can’t rely on that. If you get her number and don’t text her, one of two things are likely to happen: either she’s going to forget that she gave you her number or she’s going to think that you’re not interested. Neither of these is good.
I think waiting for her to text first is a dumb idea, as is waiting some arbitrary number of days. Personally, I’ll text someone the same night I got her number, just to keep the emotional momentum going and to solidify her memory of me as “that guy she had fun flirting with” rather than “oh right, some guy I talked to the other night, I think?”
On the other hand, if it’s someone you’ve been texting with, waiting some arbitrary time in order to not appear needy or to try to maintain the emotional upper-hand is both douchey and a stupid move. All it does is signal that you’re not confident enough in your own value and you have to play head-games in order to keep her interested. You don’t need to respond immediately – shit, you might be driving, y’know? – but you do want to keep the flow-of-conversation going. If you’re texting back and forth, then keep up a pace that works. You (or she) might be at work and can only text when you’re able to get a few minutes break. You might be having a long back-and-forth conversation before you go to bed that night.s
The only rule of thumb I would give is one text per response per day. It’s a serve and return situation. You send a text saying “Hey, had a weird dream about you last night. Just wanted to say you look good in a koala costume. And also: stay out of my dreams. ;)” and don’t hear back? You leave it. You’ve served. Now it’s up to her to return the ball. If she sends the ball back – “The koala suit? Damn it, I told them it was supposed to be a sloth!” – then you can volley it back. If it doesn’t come back, then you wait at least a day before sending another.
Just remember, one unreturned text could be anything. Two is suspicious but reasonable. Three means that either she’s ignoring you, or she lost her phone. Either way, you should stop texting until you hear from her.
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost a year and we’ve recently been going through some trouble. Up until this point, I’ve been so incredibly happy. We’ve gone on trips together, been through significant moments in each other’s lives, and I’ve felt really supported and healthy.
The problem is that I’m a doctoral student and he’s in law school, and the stress of school seems to be getting to both of us. He’s having trouble managing a relationship and school, while also dealing with financial stress. It’s really weighing on him and I can tell.
We’ve had a series of conversations about our relationship and he would like to “take a break” until the semester ends. I tried to suggest having a “less intense relationship” but he is worried that he’s not present enough for our relationship, that he’s not doing a good enough job and that staying together is making his anxiety worse. Staying together is also hard on me because I don’t feel as appreciated as I once did.
Do you think a “break” is a good idea? I still really love him a lot and don’t want to lose him. On the other hand, I don’t want to be waiting for someone who just doesn’t love me “enough”. I also don’t know the ground rules for a “break” and if that means we should not be in contact or remain talking. Any advance would be greatly appreciated!
DEAR PHDEPRESSED: Hang on: he’s a law student and you’re going for your doctorate and you’re dating for a year? I don’t know whether you’re both nuts or I should be asking you for time management tips. Every grad student I’ve ever known barely has time to, y’know, sleep, never mind date. The fact that the two of you have hung in there as long as you have is pretty goddamn impressive… but I’m not at all surprised that the two of you are stressed out.
And let me tell you: unrelenting stress is the death of all relationships, and the grad-student’s life is nothing but stress alternating with tedium punctuated by moments of sheer underwear-shitting panic. Multiply that by two and trying to maintain a relationship under those conditions isn’t just varsity level dating, it’s playing in the Majors.
So yeah, a break might not be a bad idea. As long as it’s not a matter of years, then you don’t have to break up per se; just take a vacation from seeing one another until your schedules ease up enough to spend some quality time together. You’ve both got enough to focus on without trying to keep a relationship alive and splitting your priorities like that is only going to mean you’re not giving any aspect of your life the attention it needs… so your studies and your dating life will suffer.
Ultimately it’s up to the two of you to decide what the rules are. Frankly, I’d be astounded if both of you had time to date other people, never mind each other, but you certainly don’t have to drop out of contact. Just… be willing to put one another on a back-burner for a couple of months while you get through your respective degree programs. Make plans to get together between semesters and take a long and much needed romantic getaway together… even if that getaway is locking yourselves up in the apartment with Netflix and take-out.
If it’s going to be a year or two before you’re both in a better position… well, then yes, a full break-up is probably in the cards for the both of you. You can only let a relationship lie dormant for so long before it tends to fade. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get back together afterwards, but it does mean that you should be willing to admit that neither of you are going to be able to give the other the care and attention they deserve under your current situation and that it’s better to have a clean break rather than to let what you have whither and curdle into resentment and frustration.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org