DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I know this is probably a bit outside the norm for questions you answer, but I’ve gotten my first online crush with someone I met on a discord server. It is also my first crush on another man. I’ve known I was bisexual for years, but this is the first time I’ve been attracted to a man, instead of just thinking they look hot. If it may be relevant, I have ADHD and high functioning autism, I’m able to interact with others fine for the most part, but have never developed the social-emotional skills to handle this.
Do you have any advice on how I should go forward with this? Right now I’ve decided to just get to know him better before doing anything. I know we share interests and that he is into other men as well, and that in the past he had wanted an online relationship with someone. I’ve only known him for a couple weeks but I can’t remember feeling this way about anyone, which feels a little embarrassing to admit at 35.
Sincerely,�Mr. Out of His Depth
DEAR MR. OUT OF HIS DEPTH: First and foremost: there’s nothing to be embarrassed about here, OOHD. You have your first crush on a guy; that’s absolutely normal. There really is nothing wrong, weird or even all that embarrassing about it. There’s no age at which you’re supposed to have experienced these feelings before. In fact, a lot of queer people across the gender spectrum often discover that they’re not straight (or not completely straight) later in life; it’s almost a cliche at times. So all of this is absolutely normal. There’s no shame to be had here, it’s just an experience you haven’t had until now.
Hopefully, this is a fun experience for you because hey, crushes are often fun! It can be a real rush, with the dopamine and oxytocin flooding your system and making your head feel all swimmy and your heart going bing-bang-bing-bong at the thought of them. In some ways, it can make you feel almost like a kid again, experiencing puppy love for the first time with all it’s teen intensity and novelty.
But since this is your first crush on a guy, and considering the circumstances, there are a few things you should keep in mind. Think of this as a sort of best practices when it comes to newly discovered attraction, especially if you don’t have much social or relationship experience.
First and foremost: you need to recognize that while your feelings are absolutely real, what you have is a crush on a fantasy of a person, not the person themselves. It’s like you said: you’ve only known this guy a couple of weeks and – crucially – you know him over Discord. You know very, very little about him except what little you’ve seen online. That’s going to be important to keep in mind going forward because when you have a little information and a lot of empty spaces, then it’s very easy to fill in those spaces with your own ideas about who this guy is, rather than who he actually is. It becomes less about your crush as a holistic individual and more about things you’re assigning to him that may or may not be accurate. The more info you fill in yourself, the less the person in your head will resemble the person in real life.
That’s not a small thing. I’ve seen a lot of folks who’ve spun up ideas about a person they’re attracted to out of whole cloth – building entire lives based entirely around their assumptions and beliefs about what they think a person who looks, sounds or writes like their crush would or should be like. When they deal with the real person instead of the construct that they’ve built up in their head and put on a pedestal… well, when the fantasy and the reality clash, things tend to get messy.
Think of it as the emotional equivalent of writing fan-fic about a character in a show or a book series; what one writes in one’s fan fiction can vary wildly from the canonical version of the character. But at the end of the day the one on the page or screen is the “real” one, and the fan fic is just the canon that lives in your head.
To be fair: you seem to be pretty self-aware, since you say you’re fully cognizant of the fact that you know little about him and you want to get to know him better. That’s great! That’s exactly what you should be doing. The crush you’re feeling now may change as you learn more about him. That’s not to say that it will definitely grow and become more than limerence, or that it’ll fade and you’ll wonder what you ever saw in him. It just means that right now you don’t know much about him, and what you don’t know is often very important. You’ve only seen a very small slice, not the whole of him, or even a significant chunk. Despite what we often think, the way we come across online and the way we are in the flesh can be pretty different, even radically so.
But speaking of the flesh… another thing to consider is that attraction isn’t just about the soul. I know it’s tempting to think of getting to know someone online as a way of getting to know the real person and that their soul or personality is everything… and that might be true if we were beings of pure information. But we’re not, we’re beings of meat and blood and bone and all the crazy chemical interactions that come with it. One of the things we often don’t realize is how much of what dictates who we’re attracted to and who we’re compatible can only be determined when we’re in physical proximity to one another. There are scores of subtle traits and factors – many so subtle that we don’t consciously perceive them – that affect attraction. The way he smells or the way he tastes when you kiss, the way he moves, the exact pitch and timbre of his voice… these are all things that can’t be determined even over video; they’re all things you only truly learn when you’re sharing the same space.
This is why so many dating app matches fizzle; you can have great chemistry over text or even video chat, but find them as arousing as a plank of wood when you meet up in person.
And that’s not even getting into things like “how does he treat the waitstaff at restaurants and bars” or “how does he behave when he’s thwarted in getting something he wants”? These, too, can turn Hottie McHotterson into someone you wouldn’t f--k with borrowed genitals and Li’l Nas X doing the pushing.
Now all this having been said: for crushing out on a guy for the first time, you seem to have a solid head on your shoulders, and that’s a good thing. The intensity and thrill of a crush can cause a lot of people – even people with lots of relationships under their belt, who should absolutely know better – to lose their heads and make stupid decisions. So my suggestion for you is to recognize this for what it is: an infatuation on someone you don’t know at all. The best thing you can do right now is just slow your roll and give everything time. You want time to get to know this guy, time to see if there’s more to him than the little you’ve seen thus far and time to see whether this crush of yours will be like a comet – bright, flashy and gone in an instant – or something a little more enduring.
I would also suggest that you don’t take it any more seriously than you would having a crush on a woman you barely know. It’s just a little crush, not a sign from God or a mandate from the universe, and it’s definitely not something to make life-altering decisions over. The last thing you want to do is set yourself up for disappointment and unnecessary heartache. First crushes tend to be fleeting things, not loves to last a lifetime, or even months. The odds are good that this feeling will fade in time, especially as you meet compatible guys in person.
Now that doesn’t mean that something might not bloom from this. It’s not likely to be serious or to last, but it does occasionally happen. If that does happen, that’s awesome! But I wouldn’t plan on it or build up any expectations around it. If, as you get to know this guy over time and assuming that you and he strike up some sort of friendship or other connection, you have an opportunity to meet in person? Look at it as a chance to meet a friend, not to consummate some long-held fantasy.
But for now? Enjoy the feeling for what it is, without taking it too seriously. If it’s going to be something serious, then that will develop in time.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org