DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I (28M) wonder how I can stop second guessing myself in dating. Everything seems to be going right. Yet, I wonder: is it? When do I know that I’ve become successful at dating?
As background, I’ve only been dating for a year, when, after the pandemic, I started thinking, “maybe I should find a wife.” Since then, I’ve had a lot of first dates and some second ones. I’ve never been in a relationship and never had a girlfriend.
I took that internet test that uses personality to predict gender and, based on my answers, it predicted that I have a 98 percent chance of being a woman. While I’m secure in my manhood, I think that does sum up who I am as a person. I have a lot of stereotypically feminine traits. And when I read advice blogs, I’m almost always taking the (typical) woman’s perspective. So, my approach to dating seems, from what I read, like a typical woman’s.
And I only ever date exactly one kind of woman: shy, religious, nerdy, practical ones. Around my age. Who all look somewhat similar. I simply am incapable of dating anyone else. Everything about how I date attracts this kind of woman: how I talk, what I talk about, who I am, everything. I’m somehow very good at attracting this particular kind of woman and no other kinds.
So, every woman who I have a conversation with on a dating app is like that. Even if it’s not obvious from their profile. Every woman who I am interested in in real-life is like that. I’ve only been on multiple dates with about five women in my life, and they were (almost) all like that.
Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to meet a woman at a bar. Except I never go to bars. And I never drink. I just think maybe this is my last moment to potentially become an “exciting, cool person.” And while I know it’s bad to date someone just because they will improve who you are. I sort of feel like if only I dated someone “cool and exciting”, maybe I could become that way. And I would have lots of fun.
Or if I date my type, maybe I’ll lose some essential part of myself, like I’ll switch from being an extrovert to being an introvert. Or something else bad, given I’ve never had a girlfriend, I would not know.
I did date exactly one woman who was different from my type, ever so slightly. She was very extroverted and had a chaotic energy. That ended after two dates. I felt super anxious when dating her. I suppose I didn’t really feel like we had much going for us. And maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy. She said we didn’t have chemistry after two dates.
And right now, I’ve been on multiple dates with a woman who’s exactly my type. And more or less, exactly like everyone I date. We’re taking our relationship very slowly. I don’t feel that anxious. Yet, I don’t feel that excited either. Maybe I just need to wait a month or so for “new relationship energy.” I simply wonder if I actually like her or I just like her, because of who she is, that she has all the attributes of my type (for example, she reads a lot, she plays board games).
How do I know if I actually want to be in a relationship with a woman who’s my type? How do I know if me and women of this type would actually make for a good relationship? Or how do I know if I simply am physically and emotionally incapable of dating anyone else?
DEAR CONFUSED+: Before we get to your letter, I have a quick comment. I realize there’s a certain amount of irony in this coming from someone who makes his living as a Very Online loudmouth, Confused, but have you considered that maybe you shouldn’t base your self-identity around quizzes and random things you’ve read on the Internet? While I love me a good time-waster and have probably given up far too much information to D&D character class/alignment quizzes, those really aren’t a basis for… well, anything important, really.
But that’s secondary to the issue at hand here. The issue you’re having is less about your type so much as it is about what you’re comfortable with. There’s a pretty significant difference between the two. There’re the folks you’re attracted to and would prefer to date, and then there are the folks you’re used to. Sometimes these line up. Sometimes they don’t. Things get problematic when the latter ends up overriding the former, especially when you treat this as some sort of mandate from Heaven.
Here’s the thing, Confused: you’ve spent most of your life surrounded by the people you describe: shy, religious, nerdy and practical. They are a known quantity. You’re comfortable with them because you know where you stand, you know what they’re like as people and you know what to expect. It’s easier because, well, they’re not a challenge for you. They don’t push you outside of your comfort zone, nor does dating them or interacting with them challenge your self-identity. They are, quite frankly, safe.
Now this, in and of itself, isn’t a bad thing. Shy, religious, practical and nerdy women are just as awesome as outgoing, extroverted chaos agents. The problem, however, is that it doesn’t seem like you are attracted to them. They’re easy for you to talk to and interact with, but they don’t excite you or interest you or make you feel like punching the air and yelling for joy. And therein lies the issue.
If we look at the woman you’re currently seeing, that pattern is continuing. You’ve been on several dates with this new woman. It’s been easy. It’s been stress free. And, apparently, it’s been less than thrilling. Unless you already know yourself to be some flavor of asexual or demisexual — which is certainly possible — then you’re likely not actually into her, romantically or sexually. New relationship energy isn’t something that kicks in after a month for most folks; it’s something that comes up pretty quickly when you’re dating someone you’re into. Part of what makes the early days of dating somebody fun is that initial excitement, wanting to see them, spend time with them and the thrill of their touch, their kiss, even their scent. If you’re not feeling much for her besides “it’s comfortable” after several dates, I think you can safely say that you’re not into her.
And if this is the same experience you have with the other women who are “your type”, that’s a pretty good indication that your type isn’t.
But I suspect this is less about “types” so much as it is about something deeper and more personal. This isn’t to say that your issue is that you’re dating the wrong women or that your type isn’t your type. I suspect this isn’t about the women you date, but about how you feel about yourself.
The issue at hand seems to be that you think this is what you’re limited to because of who you are… and you seem dissatisfied with the “who you are” part. Folks who are happy and satisfied with themselves don’t tend to worry, say, that they’re about to miss the window of opportunity to “become an exciting, cool person.” Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean that being steady, reliable and possibly a little square is bad or undesirable. Some folks are hobbits, who prefer quiet, unobtrusive lives. Some folks are dwarves — industrious rise-and-grind types, while others are the more academic elves. Still others are the more mercurial humans who have more of an appetite for excitement and adventure.
None of these are inherently better or worse than the others. Each of these (highly oversimplified) types all have their advantages and disadvantages. Samwise Gamgee isn’t exciting, per se — he’s solid, practical and down-to-earth — but he’s a valued friend and member of The Fellowship and husband-goals for a lot of women out there. But there’re some folks out there who think they’re supposed to be hobbits when they’re not. The problem is that trying to live as that type of person doesn’t make them happy.
And hey, that happens a lot. Sometimes the role or community you’re born into isn’t necessarily a good fit for you. And this is true amongst every type — hobbits, dwarves, humans, elves, etc. You’ve got variations in every group; Bilbo discovered he had an affection for travel and adventure, Gimli became a friend of the elves in general and had a connection with Galadriel specifically and so on. But the key here is that if your type isn’t a good fit, then it’s on you to try exploring others.
Case in point: you talk about wanting to be more exciting and cool. You wonder what it would be like to meet women at bars. Well, leaving aside that meeting women in bars isn’t the end-all/be-all experience some folks think it is… what have you done about it? Have you made a point of getting out of your comfort zone? Have you attempted doing things that would be “out of character” for you — not just once, but enough times to gauge the difference between “I’m uncomfortable with this because it’s new to me” and “I’m uncomfortable with this because it’s not right for me”?
An obvious example would be the woman went on a couple of dates with. Part of why you were anxious was because this was unfamiliar to you. You felt like this was some sort of test or trial, with rewards and consequences, and you were afraid of getting it “wrong”. With your usual “type”, you knew what to expect and — more importantly — you were able to coast on autopilot. Yes, you and this woman didn’t have chemistry, but that’s not solely down to her being different. You can meet folks who are exactly the sorts of folks you’re compatible with and still not have chemistry with them. Declaring it a one-and-done experiment belies the fact that this was the first time you stepped out of your comfort zone and — surprise surprise — it wasn’t comfortable… yet. And that yet is important because everything unfamiliar tends to be uncomfortable to one degree or another at first. You’re trying to figure out what to expect and how to act! But with time, practice and experience, you learn.
That’s something you can apply to those other aspects in your life — including “well, I wonder what it would be like if…” parts. The “meeting women in bars” part is the easiest thing in the world to try; put on your traveling feet, hop over to Bree and see what the action’s like at The Prancing Pony. You don’t need to become a barfly and/or drink yourself stupid to see if that’s something you enjoy. Hell, you can go to bars and not drink alcohol at all. I promise you, not only will most people not notice or care if you’re having a Coke instead of a beer, stick a lime on a glass of soda water and everyone will assume you’re just having a cocktail.
However those are details, not the core of the issue. The most important issue isn’t trying on different roles or experimenting with different choices, it’s that you have to do it for yourself. Not because of the person you’re dating, but because you want to expand your horizons and see if you’ve been defining yourself by false limitations.
The thing is, you seem to have convinced yourself that women and relationships have transformative properties; that if you were to date someone with the right qualities, you would adopt those qualities yourself. This is very much out of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl fantasy: that some quirky, outgoing and unusual woman will see the untapped potential in a dude who’s stuck in his ways and teach him how to lighten up via quirky dates plus blowjobs. That doesn’t happen. Leaving aside that MPDGs don’t exist, women in general aren’t looking to teach dudes important and transformative life-lessons. All this fantasy does is move the responsibility for managing your own life onto someone else. Relationships don’t change you into a different person — certainly not permanently. More often than not, the folks who hope that a particular “type” will change them are into that type because they’re seeing that lack in themselves. But expecting someone to fill that lack for you is a fool’s errand.
Nobody can make it happen for you. You have to choose it and pursue it on your own.
How do you know if your type is right for you? How do you know if you’re capable of dating other people? That’s easy: you date other people. You push yourself out of your comfort zone, try connecting with folks who aren’t your usual type and see what happens. Again: you don’t want to do this once and call it a day if it doesn’t go perfectly. You want to give this a genuine shot.
But before you do that? I suggest you get out and start pushing the envelope of “who you are”. Consider those personality traits you wish you had — being “cool” or “exciting”. What does that look like? How would that person act? How would they dress? What would your life be like if you were that person. Take the answers to those questions and then start applying them to your life. Not “down the line” or “when you’ve done X, Y or Z” but right now. You don’t need to wait to start trying to be more exciting until you’ve hit some developmental milestone; you can start now. Today.
I’m not going to tell you to stop seeing the woman you’re currently seeing, though I will tell you not to commit to anything yet. What I am telling you to do is to look at your life, look at who you wish you were more like and start to model that behavior. Instead of focusing on your type, focus on yourself first. Take a few steps outside of your comfort zone and give living that different life a shot. Try it on for size, see how it feels past that initial pain point and then see how much your interest in your “type” has changed. You may discover that yes, you are more into the more outgoing, slightly wilder type. Or you may get confirmation that yes, you are a hobbit and that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
But that can’t happen until you decide to make it happen.
It’s in your hands, Confused. Time for you to take a giant step outside your mind and see.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org