DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: A bit of background first; I’m a 26 year old hetero male who is a virgin and never had a girlfriend, and no dating experience. Last year I discovered your work after a difficult few years at undergrad. Since reading your columns my attitude has gone from “finding a woman who is interested in me is completely unrealistic” to “I can work on my presentation and skills and give myself a chance”. In the past I have had very bad experiences with Oneitis but feel I have made progress in developing an abundance mentality as I have been taking my life and my career in the direction I want it to go.
After a year of work in my hometown I moved to a new city for postgrad, although everything was under lockdown due to the pandemic, meaning my debut to dating so far has been put on hold. Things are starting to open up, but my course ends in five months and I will be moving away again for work, possibly overseas. I am unsure of how often I might need to move for work in the future too.
So my question is, how do I date and gain dating experience when I will be moving away? I have always longed for a long term relationship, but due to me relocating I would need to look for something short term, but I’m not sure how I would look for this kind of relationship without making a potential date feel like she’s wasting her time with me.
All the best
DEAR LONESOME NOMAD: The first obvious answer is that long-distance relationships are a thing. They’re not easy, and they work best when there’s a point where you both know it won’t be an LDR any more, but they are possible. The ubiquity of messaging and video apps make them much easier and more manageable in ways that they weren’t even 20 years ago.
However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend one for your first relationship, or even while you’re trying to get established with your career.
I think the problem you’re having LN, is that you seem to be dismissing the value of a short-term relationship.
Now, this is understandable. Our entire culture tends to put all the emphasis on long-term relationships. All of our stories, songs, movies and TV shows lionize and romanticize the idea that relationships are better the longer they are. According to pop culture, the ideal relationship only ends when one or both partners die in the saddle after a lifetime together. Short term relationships are seen as being shallow, less important, less meaningful and less desirable. If you can’t commit for the long-haul, then don’t bother.
And that, frankly, is bulls--t. Not every love story is meant to be an epic poem, nor should they be. Some are meant to be short stories. Some are just meant to be dirty limericks. The length of a relationship doesn’t determine its worth or value; the connection and the emotions do. If you have a happy relationship that lasts for four months before the two of you go your separate ways, then you’ve both had a meaningful and valuable experience. If you end that relationship and still have affection and respect for one another — even if you’re not actively in each other’s lives as friends or what-have-you — then that was a successful relationship.
It’s understandable that you worry that any potential date would feel like you’re wasting her time. But the thing is: that’s not an issue about prioritizing short-term relationships, that’s an issue about compatibility. That’s a case where you and your date simply have different goals want different relationships. Realistically speaking, that’s not different between going on a date with someone where one person wants kids and the other doesn’t.
The way that you avoid this is to be up front about what you want, what you’re looking for and what you have to offer. Being straightforward about just looking for something short-term or that you aren’t looking for long-term commitment, just someone like-minded who isn’t looking for a relationship that leads to the house, white picket fence and 2.5 kids (or, y’know, the nifty condo or whatever). And there are women out there who prefer short term relationships. There are people who prefer variety and who don’t stay in relationships for very long. There’re people who need that new-relationship energy and tend to bounce when it starts to fade. And there are people who are cool with taking life as it comes, who want to have fun times with a cool guy and aren’t looking for or interested in a lifelong commitment.
Being clear about this and up front with people you date — in your dating profile on the apps or talking about it early on when you’re getting to know someone — gives potential partners to opt in, rather than their assuming one things and then discovering that they have to opt out of what is actually on offer. While this may mean that there’re first dates that don’t lead to second dates… that also means that you aren’t spending time and energy on a person who is ultimately not on the same page with you.
So date casually or date short term but monogamously, but date. Just be clear: there’s a hard deadline where you’ll be moving, and it may be a long time before you’re settled in any one place for a while. The people who are cool with this will opt in, the ones who aren’t will peace out. And then later on, you may well find yourself in a short term relationship that just doesn’t end until years or decades later.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org