DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a 30 year old man with little dating experience and consciously-learned social skills (they never came naturally). I’ve read two of your books, New Game Plus and I Got Her Number. My one real prior relationship developed from a friendship basis and she asked me out. We parted on good terms when our life plans diverged.
I’ve recently been going out with a woman I’ve met on a dating app, and we are texting almost every day. She’s a grad student in biology and I’m a software developer. I’m fairly physically active and she is very much so, and our dates and plans have so far all involved our shared hobbies of rock climbing and hiking, followed by dinner. We have also read books recommended by the other. I’m writing to you because I want to pursue a romantic relationship on top of these and I don’t know how to bring it up / be romantic. Maybe I’m overthinking things? That’s always a safe bet with me. But things like when to touch, kiss or bring up tasteful innuendo kinda escape me. When and how should I do these, and what’s a good segue to more “romantic” conversation and dates?
Making My Move
DEAR MAKING MY MOVE: I think you’re overthinking things, MMM. I mean, you met on a dating app. I realize sites like OKCupid have options for things like “Just looking for new friends” but honestly, the expectation is that if you’re on this app, you’re looking for non-platonic relationships. This is why they’re called dating apps and not friending apps.
Now that having been said, while folks can safely assume that the initial intent is romantic or sexual, how you act after you start seeing each other can directly affect things. If you’re acting like a friend and not showing romantic or sexual interest in them… well, it’s understandable that they might think you’re not into them. So, part of what you need to do is to make sure you’re acting like a potential lover, not just a friend.
That’s not to say you’re doing anything wrong, yet; you’ve actually been going on some pretty good dates. I’m a big proponent of active dates, in part because of how they affect us and how they make us feel. Humans are bad at understanding why we feel the way we do; we tend to feel the physical sensations and assign meaning to them after the fact. We associate those feelings with the person we’re with, rather than the activity. When we do something that boosts our heart rate and gets our blood pumping and our adrenaline surging… well, that may feel like fear, but it also feels like attraction and arousal. Those climbing dates, followed by dinner and sharing books? That’s a very good start for creating those feelings of arousal and intimacy.
However, you need to make sure that she knows you’re into her as a lover, not just a climbing buddy. There’re a few things you can do to help bridge this particular gap. To start with, you have plenty of opportunities for casual touch — taking her hand while you’re hiking for example, or high-fiving and hugging each other after a particularly exciting climb. You can also make a point during any hikes to find particularly scenic or romantic vistas or stopping points where the two of you can get close and bask in the moment. Those also make a great time to move for a kiss. You’re setting the mood with that sense of physical arousal, closeness and gorgeous scenery. When you’re in a particularly beautiful area — maybe by water, or a glen in the woods — and the two of you are enjoying the view, you can look over at her and say “you know, this feels like a point where we should kiss” or — my personal favorite — “I really want to kiss you right now.”
It’s the sort of moment that feels like it would fit right in a classic love story, combined with that direct indication that yes, this is more than just platonic friendship.
However, don’t think that you need to be subtle or that you need a smooth “segue” to be romantic or take things in a romantic direction. Sometimes the desire for “smoothness” gets in the way when you would be better off just using your words. After all, innuendo can be missed, hints can be misinterpreted and moments can pass before you have a chance to make the most of them. But making your intentions clear by using your words and telling her what you want — even if it’s “I love climbing with you, but I want to take you on a romantic date” — means that she will know how you feel instead of wondering or trying to guess.
I realize that folks may think that it’s “not romantic” to say things plainly like that. But you have to ask yourself, which is less romantic: being direct with someone, or missing out because you and your sweetie never knew where you stood and both of you were too shy or hesitant to say anything?
When in doubt, it’s better to speak up and make sure you’re understood than to worry that being straightforward “ruins the mood” or some such shit. Clarity and understanding are far more romantic in the long term than gestures that may or may not send the right message.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org