Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I knew this woman through Twitter last year, we share the same favorite TV show and I want to live in her part of the world, I’m studying her language. We communicated through Twitter throughout the year, liking each other’s tweets and learning about our lives from it.
Things started to change last month, when she’s started ignoring my comments and questions, even though we still had some chats and I still received her likes. Things got worse with every passing week, and tonight I couldn’t take it anymore, I DMed her, asking if I had done something wrong.
Yes, she said. She said we seemed to have different thoughts on our relationship, and she didn’t like it that I added her on other social media besides Twitter. Turns out we also have different cultures – in my culture acquaintances easily add each other on Facebook, in her culture it’s reserved for close friends.
The good news is she didn’t block me and we are still mutuals on Twitter. The bad news is she asked me to step back because I was being too intense.
Turns out I still repeat the same mistake I did in college. Two friends I liked literally running away from me and I didn’t understand what’s going on – no touch, no lewd talk, but it happened. We remained friends, but I had scared them away. Another love interest ghosted me, and when we had a chance meeting, I was so lucky she prevented the store assistant from calling the police as I was weeping inside the store.
Some people have asked me to dial it down when chasing a woman, and I thought I’ve got it, especially now I write column for a feminist website. Turns out I’ve made lives miserable for both me and another person because of my bad habit.
My question is, how does I control my intensity? How can I attract a woman better without scaring her? How can I win her trust gradually? How can I differentiate between being caring & supportive and being overbearing?
Y’know, TI, at first, I was going to chalk this one up to a difference in how folks use social media. Some people collect followers and connections on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and so on while others prefer to use it strictly as a way of staying in contact with close friends and family. A clash in these philosophies can create conflicts that could otherwise be avoided.
Then I got to the part about friends literally running away. And the line about your freaking someone out because you ran into them in the store.
Look my dude, you don’t just come on too strong, it sounds like you’re getting so caught up in emotion that you’re blow through people’s boundaries like they’re not even there. Even if we’re allowing for the fact that you aren’t touching people inappropriately or saying inappropriate things… there’s a lot of room for making people deeply, intensely uncomfortable through your behavior. And a lot of it seems to stem from the fact that you have absolutely no awareness of how your behavior comes off to other people. I mean, I hate to say it, but if you’re not engaging in hyperbole in your letter but you have literally had friends run away or had the cops come on you then the problem here isn’t that you’re coming off as too intense, it’s that you’re coming off like a psychopath.
I mean, ok I get it. I get being so into somebody or so excited by someone that you get a little over the top, in ways that make people uncomfortable. It’s a little like being an over-eager golden retriever who wants all of the attention, all of the time. In its mind, it just wants to play with its new friend. But in its enthusiasm, it’s not recognizing how it’s destroying the living room, digging up the carpet, chewing on all the furniture and leaping all over people who aren’t comfortable with big dogs.
You may not mean to be causing all of this discomfort. You clearly aren’t aware of it. But not being aware of it really isn’t an excuse. Not when it keeps happening to you over and over again, especially when people keep bringing it up to you.
It sounds to me like there are two problems here. The first is that you seem intensely needy. It’s one thing to be excited and enthusiastic about a new friendship or relationship. But many times, when we have low self-esteem or feel like we aren’t “worthy” of relationships, we can start getting incredibly pushy and clingy and emotionally overinvest in people. We want to lock those relationships down as quickly and as firmly as possible, before they can realize that they made a mistake by getting with us. We want to eliminate the possibility that they may find someone else cooler, more attractive, more interesting or more “worthy” than us so we want to occupy all of their time, spend all of our time with them and otherwise just make sure that we are their entire world. Otherwise they might stop liking us and that would be a goddamn tragedy.
But it’s rare that we recognize this behavior for what it is. More often than not, we just chalk it up as “being excited” or “being a hopeless romantic” or “having a big personality”, not realizing just how we’re demanding a far greater level of intimacy or connection than is actually warranted. And that results in behavior that is DEEPLY disturbing to people on the receiving end of it. And by even the most charitable reading, it sounds to me like you didn’t just assume a greater level of of friendship than actually existed, you started behaving like you were the only person in their lives.
I mean being ghosted absolutely sucks, but reacting so over the top at a chance encounter that people felt that they needed to call the goddamn police? That’s some next level shit, dude.
The second problem is that you’re very self-centered. I don’t mean this in the sense that you’re selfish, I mean this in the sense that you seem to be completely unaware of how other people feel. The way you describe things makes it seem like things had escalated to such a degree that people were literally running from you and you hadn’t realized how bad it had gotten until that point. And this wasn’t one time, this is multiple times over the span of years. That’s not good dude. That’s not a case of “not good at reading people”, that’s “verging on being oblivious” or “living in my own version of reality”.
Now here’s the thing: this is clearly not something that’s entirely out of your control. All of your examples of this behavior are with women, which tells me that this is selective behavior. If you’re able to control your “intensity” with men, then you’re able to control that same intensity with women. Yeah, you may not be sexually attracted to men, but the fact that you can apparently recognize that acting like this with guys you know would be bad means that you have the capability of acting like this with women. Even women you’ve got a crush on.
Right now, the last thing you should be doing is wondering how to win people’s trust or avoid scaring away women you’re attracted to. You need to get this shit under control by, like, yesterday. Frankly, I think the best thing you could do is start looking for a therapist, especially a therapist who helps people deal with emotional issues and social awareness. This is the sort of thing that you need a trained mental health professional for because man it is beyond the paygrade of a loudmouth with an advice column. You need to put in a lot of work at not just learning how to let go of your neediness and regulate how emotionally invested you get in people, but in learning how to read the goddamn room. You’ve been missing a lot of warning signs and signals and it keeps leading to increasingly extreme confrontations with people. You’ve been lucky so far, but it’s the sort of thing that could very easily have consequences for you, including getting fired from your job.
Focus on getting better. Dating can wait until you’re in a better place.
I’ll do my best to keep this somewhat short. To start I was excited for life as I entered my last year before I turn 30. My wife and I moved to a rural area close to both of our families as we had planned following my military service. We both earn above the median income salaries on our own, and were ready to travel and do many exciting things that we could afford due to our low cost of living. I also had the perk of my close but small group of friends in town to satisfy all of my RPG, tabletop, and general nerd needs.
The problem? My wife asked me for a divorce after 7 years together, and I wish I had a cool story or a real reason but she just stopped loving me. We always split the chores, sex life was great, we were comfortable just being together. When she first brought her wish for this about a year ago I asked her what needed to change and to her disbelief I did everything she asked and more. She even gave me credit for it but said that the feeling just never came back.
While it’s not what I want I can’t make her come back to me without feeling as If I manipulated her to something against her true desires for the sake of comfort. I know what mistakes I made and I can’t go back and be a better partner. I know this and as a result we have been very agreeable and pleasant with each other in finalizing the divorce. She even gave me one of the dogs when I had always figured I’d have to fight for one.
Now the real problem, I’ve worked professionally to be in a good spot. My job pays me well and offers me well above the average vacation days. The down side? I don’t know what I want to do anymore. This plan worked when I had the right partner picked out who would explore and adventure with me.
Now I live somewhere where most people are partnered off, the available woman my age are usually single mothers. No offense but it isn’t something I’m interested in as my ex-wife and I had already discussed not having children. My close friends are great for all my nerd stuff and are definitely capable of having some meaningful conversations. That said only one is in a relationship that he says may be his last and not in a good way. The other uses all the apps but has really high standards and is trending towards being alone. The thirds wife cheated on him a decade ago and he hasn’t let go. None of them are big on going out and doing things besides staying home RPGing and hanging out, which I love but I also want more.
I’m afraid to pick up and move to bigger area as making adult friends at this point sounds intimidating and honestly unfulfilling. As far as dating goes I imagine I could figure that out again, I already work out, eat right, and check some of the self improvement blocks most places recommend. The problem is I just don’t have the motivation for it. It’s not what I planned for and quite frankly has thrown me in a loop.
I made sacrifices when we made this move to stay in a career field I wasn’t overly happy in to ensure my wife could pursue a degree that fit her better. It ended up working out, I landed a promotion that pays me well and allows me money and time for my hobbies. It still just feels like I’m missing out now and I’m trying to live a life I planned without one of the biggest parts. Han wouldn’t of made it as far without Chewie. Now I’m sitting in Mos Eisley by myself trying to figure out if this is really the place for me.
I know I’ve rambled and said a lot but bottom line is, I’m doubting every choice I’ve ever made and just when I thought I had life figured out and was excited for the future. I’m now scared, confused, and looking for a place to start.
-Han without Chewie
You shouldn’t feel bad about where you’ve ended up, HwC. You didn’t make a mistake, you made a decision that, based on all the available information you had at the time, was the correct one. It was the right decision for your life at the time, a life that you had no reason to believe would change as drastically as it did.
Unfortunately, man plans and the gods laugh. Life comes at you fast and now circumstances have changed. What worked for you under a specific scenario may not be as good of a fit for you as it once was. The question now is whether this new circumstance is such a bad fit that you can’t make it work or not.
Now let’s be fair: a lot of your feeling of confusion and despair is because, dude, you just had your legs kicked out from under you. You had every reason to believe that your life was going in a certain direction and then suddenly everything’s been thrown into chaos. You’re still in the “what the FUCK??” stage, where you’re trying to pick up the pieces, process the emotions and generally get back on your feet again. And you know what? That’s fine. You just had your bell rung; you’re allowed to be confused and upset by all this. That’s perfectly normal; it’s a reasonable person’s response to an unreasonable situation.
What you shouldn’t be doing right now is trying to make major life changes; you’re still reeling from everything that happened, even if it’s not immediately obvious. Your immediate priority should just be giving yourself time to heal and adjust to your new normal. You want to make sure that you’re making an informed decision instead of rushing out and making choices based around that sense of loss and upheaval.
Once you’ve gotten a little firmer footing, then you can start trying to decide what your next move is. And having a clear head and sense of purpose is going to be important, because you’ve got some decisions to make.
The thing you need to realize is that life is all about trade offs – what are you willing to risk and what are you willing to live with? It is very, very goddamn rare that you’re going to be in a place where you can adapt to all of the vagaries of life without making substantial changes to your status quo. You have a list of desires and goals, many of which may be incompatible with where you are right now – both physically and emotionally. On the one hand, you have a good job that offers plenty of perks, you live near your family and you have a relatively low cost of living. The trade off is that you’re in a place where it may be harder for you to date. Moving is a choice, sure… but it means giving up that financial advantage, the inconvenience of building a new social circle and generally having to start your life over, shortly after you started building a new one here.
No matter what you do, you’re going to have to be willing to adjust and make changes. Your previous plan is no longer in effect, so you have to decide what to do about it. Are you going to adapt it to your new circumstances, cannibalize it for parts or abandon it entirely? What trade-offs are you willing to make in order to either adjust the plan or formulate a new one? If you decide to move, then you’re going to have to sacrifice your job and your circle of friends. If you decide to stay, then you’re going to have to reconsider your priorities with dating. You may have to accept that your potential dating pool is smaller or examine your feelings about children. You may have to start looking further afield for potential partners, possibly even looking towards a long-distance relationship until either you move or they decide to join you.
Or you could do what many men in your position have done: take time to focus on yourself and your desires. You built your life around compromise and shared sacrifice so that your wife could pursue her goals. Maybe it’s time for you to dust off old dreams and pursue those, especially if you’re in the financial position to take some risks.
But for now? Focus on some effective self-care and getting yourself back into emotional fighting shape. The great thing about your future is that you can’t miss it; it’s always just ahead of you.
You’ve got this, HWC. You’re gonna be fine. You’re one with the Force and the Force is with you.
This post was previously published on doctornerdlove.com and is republished here with permission from the author.
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