Dear Dr. NerdLove:
3 and a half years ago, I used to suck at relationships. I was not the nicest person to be around, being selfish, entitled, needy… the whole package. My relationships, if any, never lasted more than 3 months and almost always ended up in the other person ghosting me, and since I apparently never got the message, breaking up in the worst terms possible. So I got coaching. Yes, this did terrible things to my life, but that’s another topic.
Anyway. after this coaching thing was over I met who I then thought was the perfect woman. She made me want to feel better, she was always fun to hang with, I never was tired when she was around, she had a crazy sex drive (which meant we almost never slept), she got me into art and movies, she wasn’t afraid of calling me sexy and hot, something that had never happened to me before… it was a wonderful year.
But then things changed for both of us. She started her own business and I was jobless, so seeing each other was hard. I had no reliable source of income, so I couldn’t afford the 2-and-a-half hours ride to her place that often, and she suddenly had way less time for me since she had to devote everything to other things. She ended things up, seeing how it was complicated to make it work.
And I fell hard.
I had to go to therapy. I cried many nights. I gained a lot of weight. I sabotaged a couple of relationships after her, just because they weren’t her.
Eventually, things got a bit better. I now know that what I longed for (still do, sometimes) was the “her” of that time, that was so compatible with the “me” back then. And we’re not the same persons we were.
But since being lonely after getting used to having sex almost everywhere, every day, is not a nice feeling, I somehow got good at the “one night stands” game. It’s not hard for me to get someone to spend the night with, but it always ends there. No second dates, no “stay for breakfast”… nothing. And I’m beginning to fear that I’m too afraid to open up again, just because nobody can measure up to the one relationship I had that did not suck. So, is there anything I can do? Am I past the point of no return? In other words, how do I get a relationship?
Thanks in advance.
Stray Cat Strut
There are a couple things to think about here, SCS.
The first is that you’re creating an artificial divide between one-night stands and potential relationships. I can’t count the number of people I know — both in my personal life and clients that I’ve worked with — who’s long-term relationships started off as one-night stands that just… didn’t end, really. The skills that help you find someone who is interested in a casual hook-up are the same skills that help you find someone who wants things that are more committed and more long-term. The only real difference is in how you apply them.
In fact, as odd as it may sound, the bigger issue people have is keeping things casual; more people try to create and maintain a casual, no-strings attached relationship and find themselves catching feelings by mistake.
So it’s not as though you can’t make the leap, if that’s what you want.
On a purely skill-based, mechanical level, making the transition from “casual” to “committed” depends on the expectations you set and the way you behave with your partners. One of the reasons why one-night stands tend to stay one-night stands is because the people involved aren’t that invested in the person they’re sleeping with. It’s less about connecting with a person and more about getting their rocks off, which means that they come to it treating the other person like a human-shaped masturbation toy. Focusing on connecting, treating your partner like a person with needs and desires from the get-go and getting to know them on more than a “let’s make squishy-noises” level all help make the leap from “Ok this was nice now get out” to “You know, I might like to see you again.”
Problem is, more people tend to just get off, wipe their metaphorical dick on the curtains and head out the door before the sweat’s started to dry. Small wonder a lot of folks either don’t like one-night stands or aren’t interested in seeing the other person again.
But I think the bigger issue for you is who you’re pursuing. I’m wondering if you’re actually interested in the people you’re sleeping with for more than just sex. It sounds to me like you’re not actively looking for someone who might be as awesome as your ex; you may have decided there’s no point, so why bother trying. And that could be equal parts Oneitis and feeling like you don’t deserve someone as good.
And if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m wondering if all those one-night stands are part of why you feel like you couldn’t find someone like her again. That you’re “not good enough” to date, so you only let yourself look for quickies instead… and since you’re the sort of person who only gets one-night stands, you’re not “worthy” of getting a “real” relationship.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been where you are. There was a point where I thought I had the perfect girlfriend, the perfect job and the perfect life. And then in short order, I got fired from the perfect job and dumped by my perfect girlfriend. And while it sucked worse than anything had sucked before… when I gave myself time to heal and recover and get some perspective, I realized just how wrong I was. The job wasn’t actually right for me — it was what I thought I wanted, but not something I actually enjoyed or found fulfilling. My “perfect” girlfriend was a great person — and we’re still friends today — but the relationship wasn’t one that actually met my needs; in fact, I was always terrified about it all falling apart. I wasn’t in the right place to be dating at all, never mind her.
With time, experience and distance, not only was I able to come to terms with all of this, but I started getting to know myself better. And despite losing all those “perfect” parts of my life… I was able to find a new career and new relationships that were actually right for me.
But a lot of it involved my being willing to forgive myself for “losing” all of that.
I think that’s what you need more than anything else. You need to forgive yourself for not being able to hold onto that “perfect” relationship, for the mess you found yourself in afterwards and the strings of hook-ups you’ve had since. Your relationship with your ex didn’t fail; it simply reached it’s natural end-point and you had to move on to the next stage of your story. And while she was amazing and you had some great times… there are many, many women out there who are just as amazing, and who are right for who you are now.
The key is that you have to be willing to give yourself permission to find them.
You don’t need to change up your game, as it were; you just need to start changing how you play it. You have the skills to find your next adventure; you just have to apply them differently. Instead of looking for folks who are just up for sex that night, prioritize meeting people who are just awesome. People who yeah, may be down to bang… but people you’d want to see again. And when you do find them… focus on connecting and commonalities more than the sex. The more you can build that sense of connection, the more likely it’ll be that hooking up that night will lead to breakfast the next day… and then dinner the following night.
You’ll find someone just as great as your ex. You just have to let yourself be open to it.
I just wanted to reach out to you for some advice, I have never had any luck with women and at 25 I’m still a virgin not that it matters because it just means I haven’t had that experience.
I have zero self confidence around women whatsoever, I have never fit in and have been bullied most of my life. I have always been the socially awkward, quiet, shy and weird guy, I have just recent been able to start making friends in college. I am really worried that I will say the wrong thing and appear creepy to women or I get consent and they regret being with me later and my ability to practice in my potential career will be ruined.
There is a girl that I work with that is five years younger than me that I have feelings for but I won’t act on because I don’t want to make things awkward or uncomfortable. I also think she is way out of my league as she is funny, intelligent and really cute where as I’m weird, awkward, goofy, slightly below average looking and not the sharpest tool in the shed.
This girl teases me all the time and work and makes me laugh but, I think just does it to make fun of me, I asked her why she did it over text and if it was because I’m and easy target and her response was “Could be 😉” “but I dont make fun of you!!”. This coworker has also randomly messaged me Love Yoouuuu out of the blue and randomly referred to me as “babe” at work when I asked her if it was a slip of the tongue and she said no. This behavior confuses me maybe I should just avoid her entirely if possible.
The other thing that I fear is affecting me is being ginger, I don’t think most women like or even prefer ginger guys, gingers are popular with men not women. I also feel like I have to have a rhinoplasty to correct my crooked nose and braces in order to be even average looking to women.
How would you gain confidence and get over someone who you shouldn’t have feelings for?
Weird Awkward Nerd
Ok so this is one giant tangled knot of misconceptions, WAN. But I think rather than trying to pick things apart, we’re just gonna take the Alexander approach and cut straight through it.
First things first WAN, let me help you put this fear to bed: nobody is out there consenting to sex, then deciding they didn’t like it and using that as a vehicle for destroying somebody’s life. The myth of “regret=rape” is bullshit being spread by folks who think concepts like “enthusiastic consent” give too much power to women to say “no”.
Similarly, saying the wrong thing isn’t going to be the end of the world. Creepiness isn’t a one-off event, nor is it about looks; it’s a series of behaviors and attitudes that make people feel unsafe. Basic consideration and social calibration goes a long, long way towards avoiding being a creeper. Most of what you need to do is simply relax and be mindful of other people’s comfort.
By the same token: there are no such things as leagues; there are people who are into you, and people who aren’t. If someone’s attracted to you and wants to date you, then by definition, you’re in their league… even if they’re a princess and you’re a cave troll.
But at the same time: dude, where in pluperfect fuckery did you get the idea that women don’t like gingers? I mean, this is easy to dismiss by looking at the number of girls who went apeshit for Ron and George Weasely in the Harry Potter movies, or the women who get the screaming thigh-sweats for Eddy Sheeran. Or, for that matter, the fans of Michael Fassbender, Paul Bettany, Domnhall Gleeson, Robert Redford…
I mean, I could go on.
(Also, dude. *I’m* a ginger and I can tell you from experience: that’s never been a problem for me.)
Your biggest issue is that you’ve convinced yourself that you’re unattractive and you’ve worked backwards from there. And look, if I had a nickel for everyone who’s written in convinced that they’re Phantom of the Opera level deformed and was actually perfectly average AT WORST, then Elon Musk and I would be having giant mecha fights off the coast of San Jose.
Here’s the thing: 90% of being attractive is about presentation, not bone structure or physical features. All you have to do to see this is to do a search for “celebrities without makeup” or “instagram vs. reality” to see just how much conventional attractiveness is about how you present yourself. Shit, watch some episodes of Queer Eye and see just how transformative a change of clothes and a hair cut can be.
You don’t need a nosejob to be attractive; you need to make changes to how you present yourself. People spend luxury-car amounts of money on plastic surgery and are still miserable. Getting a good hair cut and wearing clothes that fit and look good on you will do far more for making you feel like a sexy bad-ass.
All of these doubts and self-limiting beliefs are just retroactively justifying what you already believe. It’s confirmation bias in action; you ignore any signs that people might think you’re cute as “that doesn’t count”, while you double and triple down on anything that goes along with your belief that you’re an unfuckable troll.
Which actually brings us to your friend at work. I think you’re radically misinterpreting what she’s doing and why. Yes, she’s teasing you… but teasing isn’t inherently malicious. In fact, a lot of people will use teasing as a form of flirting; they’re showing interest in a gently playful way. I strongly suspect that this is coming from a place of affection. Part of the fun is how flustered or worked up you get; I’m willing to bet that if someone asked her why she likes to nudge at you like this, she’d tell them that it’s because your reactions are cute.
Because, straight talk: women don’t call folks “babe” or tease folks the way your coworker is teasing you if they don’t like them. This isn’t necessarily a sign that she’d like to date you… but it’s a damn sight closer to that than the idea that she’s taunting you or being cruel. The problem is that you don’t want to believe that someone you think of as attractive could like you.
If you were to start teasing her back, the way she teases you? Not only do I think she’d love it, I think you’d find the two of you would really connect. I can’t say that you’d start dating… but you sure as hell would have a much better time at work and make a very good friend. And that might lead to something new and amazing.
But to do that, you have to start by accepting that hey, people think you’re cute, fun and like you.
Because hey: they clearly do.
You’ve got far more going for you than you realize, WAN; you just won’t let yourself believe it. Take some time to make some changes to how you dress and style yourself, let those changes sink in and make you feel awesome and open yourself up to your own potential. I think you’ll surprise yourself in just how much you’re capable of if you give yourself a chance.
Previously published on doctornerdlove.com and is republished here under permission.
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