I’ve written you before and found your advice to be quite helpful! I have a situational question today and would love your eyes on it.
I recently connected with someone I’ve met briefly in the past over a dating app and hit off the conversation with her. Let’s call her Alpha. We set up a time to grab some drinks last Friday, but she canceled the day-of citing a work event she forgot she needed to attend. Not problem though, she offered to meet up either later that weekend or next week.
I mentioned that I was going to be attending a neighborhood music/art festival the next day offering to meet up if she was around. She responded enthusiastically saying how she’d like to meet up!
I text Alpha the day of the event asking if she’d like to meet up and where she was and… nothing. Frustrated, I let it sit. She finally got back to me Sunday night explaining what she ended up doing that day/evening. I noticed the mention of her friend she went to another event with- let’s call her Epsilon.
Epsilon’s name kept sticking out when it dawned on me, I went on a date with an Epsilon who happened to work at the same (extremely large) company. In fact, I met Epsilon the same night I connected with Alpha at a large party and we went home together- yikes! The date we shared wasn’t great and, after sensing that Epsilon wasn’t interested in a second date, we never connected again. A quick peek over on Alpha’s Instagram and, yep, there the two of them are!
So, surely Epsilon mentioned all of this to Alpha, hence the sudden radio-silence that I experienced last weekend. My frustration comes from having no chance to make a case for myself. I have no clue what Epsilon said about me, but it clearly wasn’t positive. I think Alpha and I would have a fun time on a date, but I’m stuck throwing in the towel before I even start the first round.
I don’t go on enough dates for this to be a common occurrence, so this is particularly weird. My question is, is anything salvageable here? Is there a chance to reconnect with Alpha in the future, or do I “take the L” and move along?
Three’s A Crowd
There’s a saying I like, TaC; if you’re a regular reader, you may have heard me say it before:
Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.
This makes for a handy rule of thumb as a way to tell if, say, someone is trying to send you a message when they don’t return your calls. At the same time, it’s also useful as a way to remind yourself not to give more weight to a coincidence than the incident actually deserves. There is always going to be the temptation to look for malice or reason in the random events that occur in our lives. The idea that there’s an outside force working against us is perversely reassuring; it gives a deeper meaning to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune besides “shit happens, wear a hat.” But at the same time, the idea that there’s an intelligent force behind your misery also has the effect of absolving you of any responsibility for why things may have gone wrong.
Plus: if you try to bring it up to, say, someone you feel isn’t dating you because of gossip, you kinda look like you lined your bedroom with tin foil to keep out the spy beams.
Right now, TaC, you’re making assumptions based on facts not in evidence. Let’s look at what you actually know: the incontrovertible facts. Alpha ghosted you. Alpha also happens to be connected to someone you went on a single date with.
That’s it. Everything else after that is pure speculation. You don’t know what sort of relationship Alpha and Epsilon have. You don’t know that Alpha ever talked to Epsilon about you, or that Epsilon even remembers who you are. For that matter, you also don’t know that anything Epsilon said – if she said anything – actually changed Alpha’s mind. These are all things that you’ve basically invented out of whole cloth. It’s possible yes, but not plausible. It’s far more plausible, likely, even, that Alpha decided on her own that she just wasn’t feeling it and, like a lot of people these days, she decided there was no real need to respond.
Which hey, kinda sucks.
But it is what it is, and the only thing you can do is just roll with it. Trying to plead your case isn’t going to go anywhere, TaC. First of all, as I said: you don’t know what actually happened. If you roll into the conversation with “I don’t know what Epsilon told you but…” then you’re going to look unhinged. Second of all, you had your chance to plead your case… when you first connected on the dating app. People who want to see you will make an effort to see you. I’ve had cases where we spent a solid month and a half with “Let’s meet up on this date! Shit, something went wrong, ok how about THIS date? No, I’ll be out of town, what about…” that eventually lead to an actual date.
Alpha just wasn’t digging you, my dude. And considering that she didn’t care enough to actually say “hey, something came up” on the day of your proposed date, asking for another chance to prove whatever scurrilous stories Epsilon may or may not have told her is unlikely to change her mind.
Acknowledge that this sucks, take the experience points, brush the dirt off your shoulder and move on.
Hi, Dr. NerdLove.
I love your book and podcast – it’s so clearcut and informative, and it’s really a gift for people who struggle with dating, like myself.
So here’s my dilemma. It seems that I have a history of dating emotionally unavailable women. I’ve dated a few women each year, and each time, it starts off great, we have an instant connection, and then we go on a few dates, usually getting intimate pretty quickly, and it seems that we have the chemistry for a great relationship, but then almost always after the 3-5 date mark, the woman cuts me off. Each time I’ve gotten rejected, I felt terrible thinking that I did something wrong or that I wasn’t good enough. But recently, after some time, I’ve asked a lot of these women why they stopped talking to me, and so far, most of them will say that it was all their fault and that they’d like another shot.
It seems I just keep meeting emotionally unavailable women and that I’m doing something to attract them. Even when I use online dating and don’t even initiate the conversation, I keep finding these women. Having said all of this, what do you think I should do? What am I doing that’s attracting these women? How do I change this so I find emotional available women? If you can help me out, I’d be forever grateful. Thank you!
When it comes to trying to troubleshoot you love life, sometimes you need to stop and look for the commonalities, TB. What do all of those relationships and interactions have in common? Sometimes it’s a matter of never getting out of your comfort zone. Doing the same thing over and over again tends to lead to getting the same results. Other times, it’s just pure bad luck or demographics that work against you. And then sometimes the only commonality is… well, you.
When you find yourself dating the same sort of woman over and over again, whether it’s a physical type or women who’re just emotionally closed off, then that’s usually a sign that there’s something about those women that jives with you. Now this doesn’t mean that they’re people that you’re attracted to, just that there’s some aspect of them that you connect with – and not necessarily in a positive manner. People who tend to date drama bombs, for example, often do so because drama fulfills a need in them. It may make them feel important. It may be a source of excitement in an otherwise staid life. The fact that you connect so quickly with emotionally unavailable may be an issue with you and your own self-esteem. People who don’t believe they’re worthy of love, or who are actually afraid of success will often chase after partners who they know are “safe”, pursuing relationships that they know are ultimately impossible. Since they know there’s no chance of success, they don’t feel the anxiety that comes with approaching someone when there are actual stakes.
It’s worth taking a long, deep dive into these women you’ve been dating… and into yourself. Doing some serious introspection, examining how you feel about yourself and how they made you feel can be a good start. And if you are chasing after women who aren’t right for you? Then it’s a good time to stop and ask why.
And in the meantime: try pursuing relationships women you might not approach, normally. Sometimes finding out what’s wrong means doing things very differently and seeing if you get different results. But overall: the next time you find yourself starting to connect with someone, take a moment and take stock. Do you really have this incredible instant connection? Or are you repeating the same pattern over again?
This Is What Makes You Creepy | Paging Dr. NerdLove - YouTube
What is it that makes one person creepy and another person attractive? Why do some men set off women’s Spidey-sense while other men can do the exact same things and be perfectly fine?
Guys – especially ones who aren’t the most socially well-calibrated – worry a lot about being creepy by accident. They worry that being a creeper, even if it’s entirely unintentional – will start be the start of a long process that begins with being called creepy and eventually leads to their dying alone in a cave because they’ve been kicked out of all society, everywhere. But what is it that can cause even seemingly perfectly normal behavior to make people feel uncomfortable… and how can you avoid it?
Why being creepy isn’t about who’s hot and who’s not
How society makes it harder for women to trust their instincts
The psychology behind why certain behaviors make women uncomfortable
What behaviors trigger women’s sense of danger and why
Hi, Dr. NerdLove; Thanks for the wonderful column.
I… have a problem with disappearing and I think I need the Chair Leg of Truth. I keep having to deal with other people’s very, very inconvenient crushes on me.
Example #1: I gave up my the forums of my beloved hobby when Married Sad Boner Dude “fell in love” with me. He refused to stop talking about how in love with me he was, or work on his relationship with his wife, so I faded. Not before he threatened to kill himself and implied that I, his True Love could save him by encouraging him to make an intercontinental move to court me.
Example #2: I moved away from my hometown when College Experiment with Heterosexuality Sad Boner Dude was “uncomfortable” with the fact that I insisted upon living near him (which is to say: living with my mother, two hours away). I’m not attending reunions and I donate anonymously to my college, because OMG what if the poor dear gets triggered by seeing my name the way he was when he saw me from the train that one day? (To be fair, we did have a serious case of the zombie relationship, and I don’t blame him for being relieved to see my toxic-to-him ass retreating.) I gave up all my college friends that had any association with him, too. That hurts to this day.
Example #3: I started working remotely when Sad Boner Co-Worker got a crush on me and started acting in a frightening and quasi-stalkery manner. Good luck advancing in my career without being allowed to come into the office more than once a month!
Example #4: I faded from a local con and skipped the workshop I’d paid for last year when Sad Boner Dance Dude decided that I was The One and refused to let me talk to my friends and tried to follow me to my hotel at 3 a.m. I am going back to that con this year. Maybe. I dunno.
Example #5: I just f-locked the archives and all entries for the foreseeable future on my blog, which was middling popular, because another Married Sad Boner dude kept defiantly trampling my boundaries, getting angry when I refused to chat with him while I was busy at work or at dinner with my daughter, trying to sexually dominate me and requesting to see my ass on video chat.
Doctor Nerdlove, I don’t know what to do.
I am RIGHT UPFRONT about being lesbian, about not being even remotely interested in romantic relationships and kind of disgusted by sex with anyone but myself. By PUA standards, I’m a Midwest two when I make the effort, and I never, ever make the effort. I guess I’m kind and friendly and a little funny, and I try to appreciate how awesome every individual is in their own right, but I mention that I’m not available or interested in romance in any way, shape or form. I’ve even tried not bringing it up. That makes it worse. Not saying “not interested” at the beginning and end of every sentence to a Sad Boner Dude feels like he’s going to pounce and say, “Aha! You didn’t say ‘Simon Says,’ NOW YOU HAVE TO MARRY ME. Or at least let me call you my fiancée until I lose interest and wander off.”
The worst thing is, these are good men. They’d be horrified if they read this letter. They’d write me eight-page SAD PANTSFEELS LETTERS about how it wasn’t like that! If you publish this letter, readers of yours will be curling up like they’ve been nutkicked because they’ve done something that remotely resembles this and they feel personally attacked.
But for me, it is like that. Suicide threats. Being followed at night. Getting cornered at the office by a nightmarish 6’3″ ex-cop who keeps telling everyone about how women make shit about abuse up, who then turns up in your parking lot at one in the morning blaring Barry White because he “finds you attractive.” Getting badgered because I’m hanging out with my family instead of worshiping the boner, even though a boner, for me, is a Lovecraftian Elder God with whom I want no truck. Eight-page SAD PANTSFEELS letters.
How do I prevent guys getting crushes on me and mistaking them for an excuse to ignore clearly stated boundaries? Look, I’m sure women do this too, but it’s not a problem I’ve run into with women. And for that matter, what do I do with these Sad Boner Men? When guys do get crushes on me, is there a more constructive response than “three strikes, and I run screaming, because it’s super-mean to exist and not want to be someone’s prize, even though I’ve skipped to the end of that particular book and, spoiler, horrific ruins for everyone and no-one has any fun getting there and the car chases suck”? It feels like I’m cruel to keep visibly existing, but it’s almost always in my own space. Also, I feel like this is one of the reasons you don’t see women in male-dominated fields: there’s this thing where guys fixate on women and the women leave. I really hate the thought of contributing to that. I want to grow a spine, but dang. It’s mean to them and sometimes feels dangerous to me to hang around. I want my blog back. I want my forums back. My mom wants me to visit her.
Is there something I’m missing here? I already carry a taser. Or am I being unreasonable? You’d tell me if I was being unreasonable, right?
The (Vanishing) Villain in the Rom Com
Let’s get this out of the way up front, VVRC: there’s really nothing you can do to prevent someone else from feeling things. Unless you’re secretly Killgrave, you can’t control other people’s emotions or feelings. You can lay out the reasons why you’ll never, ever, ever be into them. You can tell them all the reasons why trying to pursue you is a horrible idea. But at the end of the day, people have free will. That means that people are capable of choosing to make incredibly stupid decisions – even when everyone else is yelling at them not to.
Now with that in mind, one of the things I’m always saying is “once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action something you’re doing wrong.” When somebody is dealing with a recurring issue with people in their lives, they need to start looking at what all of those relationships have in common. And sometimes the only common denominator is… well, you. I’m not saying that you’re doing anything wrong, per se, but it’s worth examining the similarities with those men and your relationship with them. If, for example, you’re dealing with people who are poorly socialized or who are extremely awkward, then you may have your first indicator of what’s wrong. There are some people who will take any sign of friendliness as romantic interest and create a massive fantasy about how you are Their One True Love out of thin air. It doesn’t matter that they’re the wrong gender or that sex is completely off the table for you; it’s their fantasy and you’re stuck going along for the ride.
Or it could well be that behavior you see as friendly is coming off as flirting with intent. There’re plenty of people who didn’t realize that what was normal behavior in their small social circle would be seen as a mating call anywhere else. If, for example, you’re an especially touchy-feely person or someone who likes having cuddle-buddies, you might be confusing people who try to gloss over your homosexuality or asexuality with dickful thinking. This is a time when it is useful to check in with friends. How would they describe your behavior with these dudes? Is it exactly as you’re saying? Or are you giving off the wrong signals, signals you may not even realize exist?
But sometimes it really isn’t anything you’re doing. You could be sending off every “piss off” signal in the world and they’d blithely ignore it all.
Unfortunately, the answer may well lie in adjusting where you spend your time and who you spend your time with. If this is so consistent, you may have to dial back any friendliness and work on your Resting Bitch Face until you can be assured that you’re dealing with someone who’s got their emotional shit together. It may also mean that you have to be less open to friends until they’ve proven themselves to be emotionally intelligent, grown-ass adults.
This also means that you can’t be subtle or less than completely blunt with folks if you suspect that they’re starting to get pantsfeels. This means that you can’t just hint at previous girlfriends or that sex makes your skin crawl, it means stating it unambiguously. Forget the Chair Leg of Truth, you need the Mallet of Driving The Point Home. And even then, there will be people who will let their fantasies override their rational brains.
And that’s when you have to enforce your boundaries, with fire, razorwire and knives. You do a lot of running away when it may be better to go on the offensive. Someone who persists in sending you long rambling messages gets blocked. Someone acting inappropriately at work gets a report – or several – to HR. Someone who gets all BUT WHAT ABOUT MY PANTSFEELS on chat, social media or the blog gets SUPER blocked. They get introduced to your alter ego: Queen Bitch, First of Her Name, Lady of Don’t Touch Me Or You Pull Back a Bleeding Stump. It may feel mean, but you know what? Sometimes the only way to get someone to give up on their fantasy is to stomp a muddy hole into it with the Dream-Stomping Boots of Reality. It may be cruel, but it’s kinder in the long run… to you at the very least.
None of this is easy, or particularly fun. But if this is happening so often that it chases you away from everything you do, then it’s time to spit in your hands choke up on the Chair Leg and dispensing some brutal honesty about the head and shoulders.
The other day, I went to a Comic-Con cosplay event. No big deal, I regularly go to these kinds of things, it’s fine. During the run-up to the event, I learned out that a former high-school classmate, “L”, is also going. Since I’d always had a minor crush on her, this struck me as an awesome opportunity. I think maybe we can catch up, reminisce, whatever. But when the night rolled around, I ended up freezing in place instead.
I thought I was prepared, but during the qualifier for the cosplay championship started, I watched L make an astounding entrance, all dressed up and ready to rock! I tried to talk, but I choked. I couldn’t handle the double-whammy of a) seeing her on stage like a celebrity and b) for the rest of the night, she was surrounded by other people and that intimidated me.
I was fine with everyone else during the party afterwards, but when it comes to L, it feels like I reverted back to my high school days, emotionally. It certainly didn’t help that she had this mischievous sly grin whenever she glanced my way. Every single time it was like getting a bullet of butterflies to my gut.
A few hours after the party, I sent L a text that said that I wanted to approach her and talk, but got nervous cause of the setting. I proposed that we meet somewhere quieter.
Should I have sent that, is it weird, is it too ambiguous and should I follow up with a firm date and time?
Thanks for listening, Flipped, Reversed, Confused
One of the things you leave out of your letter FRC, is whether you and she actually had plans to hang out and catch up or if this was just something you were hoping to make happen. If it was the former, there’s nothing wrong with saying “hey, you seemed like you were busy with an adoring crowd and I didn’t feel like it’d be a good time to catch up. Would you like to grab coffee this weekend?”
If it’s the latter… well, that’s a slightly trickier needle to thread. It’d be better to have said “Hey, I saw you at the cosplay contest, way to rock it! Wanted to come say ‘hi’ afterwards, but you were surrounded by people and I’m not great with crowds. I’d love to catch up; would you like to grab coffee and chat later on this weekend when things are less busy? How’s Sunday afternoon for you?” than to say “hey, let’s get together when there aren’t as many people around” out of the clear blue sky.
As a general rule, if you’re making first contact – or reinitiating contact after a long time apart – then it’s better to suggest a specific activity at a specific place and time. The local coffeeshop or tea house on a slow afternoon, for example, is easier to say “yes” to than just “some place quieter” and “some time”. Plus, proposing to meet some place quieter when you didn’t have previous plans and aren’t normally in contact can seem a bit much; not “I’d like to wear your flesh like a suit” weird, but a smidge presumptuous.
But it is what it is and you can’t un-send a text. So the only thing to do now is wait and see if she replies and what she says. If she says sure, then respond with a specific place and time. Otherwise? You took your shot, and it didn’t work the way you hoped. Take this as a soft “no” and resolve to not let the crowds intimidate you so much next time.
Hi Doc. First, I started reading your stuff about a year ago, and it’s been a big help to me. I do have some issues that I’d like to ask about though, but I should probably start with some backstory.
I’m a 23 year old man, whom has suffered chronic general and social anxiety, three bouts of major depression, and years of constant bullying (middle and high school). I also have some (okay, lots) of issues with perfectionism and negative self talk, though I’m actively working on those. But for all that, I made good grades, earned scholarships, and just graduated with my bachelor’s degree.
The last eight months have been some of the happiest of my life, even during what was the most stressful year of my college career. Why? After years of rejection, bitterness, more rejection, self loathing, and finally despair, I found a girl. Rather, she found me, on a site I had given up on. We started talking, and we had (have) so much in common. We understand each other’s humor, and also each other’s baggage (she has social anxiety issues as well). It’s even been worth going long distance, though we really only get to see each other about every two weeks, since she still has several years of higher ed ahead of her. But we also talk extensively every single day.
Our relationship, has, admittedly, moved at a frankly glacial pace compared to everyone else; I’m not complaining, just saying how it is. We didn’t have our first kiss until… I don’t know, our ninth date? Anyway, literally every single thing, every step that we take, is a first for both of us. I had never gotten a second date with anyone before her, much less kissed a girl. I really like her, maybe even am starting to love her, but I’m feeling dissatisfied with our level of intimacy, and also feeling ashamed for feeling dissatisfied. We’ve had a grand total of six kisses, and I’m always really conscious of her feelings and ask first, and always accept no as an answer, even if it smarts. Though not nearly as much as it does when she seems to hesitate before answering, which is really confusing as well as painful. It makes me worry she’s only agreeing because she thinks it will keep me happy (Though she was the one who instigated the first kiss, after I had backed off for about a month after I asked and she said she wasn’t ready yet). I feel dirty, greedy, selfish, because I really want to spend more time kissing her (and hopefully other things someday), even though I really love our conversations. But if something doesn’t change… I don’t know. I feel unwanted, undesirable, and… yeah.
The worst part is, when I try to voice the subject, I literally croak (seriously, it feels like my whole throat closes up), and I can’t get out a single word. Because I’m terrified that this amazing girl will think I’m only after one thing and she, the (frankly) happiest thing in my life (for all of this, that is) will leave. And numbers or no numbers, I don’t like my odds of meeting someone else (who likes me back) before I’m in my 30s.
I have zero expectations of her, but my desires keep getting louder in my head. And I’m trying very hard not to be disgruntled that just last week, she asked me down for the weekend to help housesit for her parents, and that in two whole days, we didn’t kiss until I was getting in the car to leave. That bugs me WAY more than sleeping in completely separate rooms. I’m not trying to suggest, ask, much less push for too high a degree of intimacy (I don’t think). And of course, I still feel guilty that this bugs me in the first place. The only (half) comfort is that she admits (by text, I think because of her anxiety) that she “really, really, really” likes me, and that she’s sorry “if it doesn’t always seem like that” because she “sucks at showing emotion and super fucking awkward at expressing affection”.
I guess what I’m asking is, how do I keep from clamming up long enough to talk about these things (if I should talk about them in the first place)?
So, yeah, this is all one tangled up mess of emotions on my part, that I have zero baseline for. I’m in the Pacific without a paddle, and any advice you have to offer on any of this would be great, because I’m f*cking clueless.
Thanks, Molasses In January
Let’s roll this one from the top, MIJ: there is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with wanting physical intimacy. That desire is 100% valid and legitimate. You’re not being greedy or perverted or selfish or disgusting because you want to make out with someone you’re attracted to. You’re a human with a sex drive and you want your romantic relationship to have a sexual component as well. And honestly, sexual satisfaction is an important part of any romantic relationship. If one partner’s needs aren’t being met – or if their needs are being overridden by their partner’s, for that matter – then that relationship is going to fall apart pretty damn quickly.
So the fact that you’re frustrated and wanting more is completely understandable and completely legit.
But unless your girlfriend is secretly Jean Grey or Betsy Braddock, she has literally no way of knowing that you feel this way. And since you aren’t David Haller or Charles Xavier, you don’t really know how she’s feeling either. For all you know, you’re both sitting there wishing that the other would freaking say something about the physical side of your relationship.
Since neither of you are telepaths, the only way this is going to change is if one of you actually opens your mouth and make the words fall out. And since somebody’s gotta be the first person to start the conversation, it may as well be you.
Now I get it: trying to express a need, especially when you’re worried that you don’t have the right to feel this way, can be intimidating. You’re understandably worried that if you draw attention to the problem, then your entire relationship is going to explode. But by the same token, nothing is going to change, either.
Here’s what you need to do MIJ. You need to have The Awkward Conversation, in all it’s glory. This means that you need to go into it knowing that this is going to be awkward, acknowledging the awkward and pushing through the awkward. Here’s how it works:
First, you need to schedule the talk with your girlfriend. This is important because you need to block out time to actually hash this out when you won’t be interrupted or have to rush things. Start with saying “hey, I really want to talk about our relationship and where it’s going. Nothing’s wrong, I just want to check in with you about things. Can we get together on $DATE at $TIME and talk?”
Next, you want to lay things out in order:
Acknowledge that this is going to be a little awkward for you because you’re nervous to bring this up and you may need a little time to get through it.
Tell her why you’re nervous – you are feeling awkward about bringing this up because you’re worried that she’s going to judge you, be upset, think that you only want sex… whatever the exact fear is that’s keeping you from just saying whatever it is you need to say.
Explain how you feel; in this case, that you love this relationship with her but you feel like there’s a physical component that’s missing. You want to be respectful of her boundaries and limits, but you also want more than you’re currently doing. Make sure that you explain it in terms of why this is important to you and how you’re feeling. Be sure to frame it as how you feel, not how she makes you feel. This is your issue, not hers.
Explain what you’d like to be different – in this case, being more physically intimate.
Explain how you feel this would improve things.
Say “… and how about you?”
Now step back and listen to what she has to say. Give her the same space and courtesy that she’s just given you and let her share her side of things. This will likely be as awkward for her as it was for you, so be patient and let her wrestle through it without judgement.
Once you both have your cards on the table, now you’re able to find a way to move forward. This may involve some compromise or patience, or it may be that she feels exactly the same way you do and didn’t know how to express it. You may work out a way to express your affection with one another more easily, you may find yourselves having to have a couple more conversations… or you may just end up leaping on each other.
But nothing can change until you communicate with one another. So sit down, grit your teeth and use your words. The Awkward Conversation may be uncomfortable, but if you can muscle your way through to the other side, your relationship will be stronger and better for it.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I would first like to thank you for creating a blog which helps men navigate the dating world in such a non-toxic and positive way. Your advice regarding nutrition, dress, and internal validation has helped transform me from a 22 year old virgin into someone with a stable sex life.
However, lately I’ve been “falling off the wagon” in regards to my self esteem: my most recent causal encounter started off ok but on the way back home and during pillow talk she kept asking me about 20 questions regarding what I thought of her. These ranged from “Why would a white guy find a black woman attractive?” (which she said she was just seeing if I had a weird fetish) to “What made you think you had a chance?” (She was talking to a very drunk burly guy and thin scrawny me happened to peak her interest). She was legit grilling me so I flipped it on her asking “Hey wait, don’t you believe you deserve a guy like me?” and she flat it answered “not really.”
Under normal circumstances a guy would be infatuated by that, but to me, I thought to myself “So wait, you would’ve just went home with anyone simply because they acknowledged you?! Not for personal fun, but status?!”
My only previous partner was a Russian girl whom I’ve spent a wonderful 3 months with before she decided to call it quits. She believed she was “asexual unless she’d had a beer” due to nervousness (which I believe given her previous statements about how she was feeling) and we’re still friends.
But sometimes, I get second thoughts like “Oh woohoo, I only bring home desperate women,” “Girl #1 was only having a confused identity crisis” or “Self esteem? More like self-delusion!” I find that these thoughts are an absolute anathema to everything I’ve worked to achieve lately, yet, they’re here and are giving me a hard time.
My wingwoman reassures me that this isn’t the case, and 90% of the time I stay positive, but I believe that the disgusting humans-can-be-ranked ideology that my most recent partner had expressed somehow managed to rub off on me and is making me second guess my self-worth, even after I went through so much to accomplish unconditional self-love.
With this in mind, how would a newbie cope with such a situation?
If it’s relevant, I was also diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, which makes it difficult to read certain social cues.
First of all, PZ, I want to say congratulations! You’ve made some serious progress and you should absolutely be proud of how far you’ve come. You’ve developed some skills and confidence and that’s awesome… which is why it’s a shame that you’re letting your own doubt bring you down.
Here’s what’s going on, PZ: she’s trying to reassure herself that you actually like her. Her low self-esteem has convinced her that she’s undesirable and that the only reason why a guy would go for her is because either he has a race fetish or because he thought she was beneath him and an easy score. Then this cool guy rolls in, apparently not even intimidated by the drunk burly dude talking to her and makes his interest known? She’s got that voice in the back of her head saying “It’s a trap!”
She’s not saying that she’d’ve gone home with anyone, she’s trying to figure out why a guy as together and awesome as you was into her. That’s not someone desperate, that’s someone who thinks you’re awesome and has a hard time believing you’d think she was awesome too.
Sometimes you just have to accept that hey, maybe you’ve got it going on, even if your own jerk-brain is telling you otherwise. Stop letting other people’s self-doubt throw you, PZ; it’s not that they’re desperate, it’s that they recognize your value but can’t find their own. That’s all.
The Virginity Paradox | Paging Dr. NerdLove - YouTube
Recently, we’ve been talking about toxic masculinity and all of the ways that it damages men on the individual level and society on the whole. One of the enduring questions is: so what do we do about it.
Part of the way we start end the damage that toxic masculinity does and help heal some of the pain is to talk openly and honestly about some of the issues that come bundled in the toxic masculinity package. And one of the biggest issues is the topic of sex – especially how it affects men who aren’t having it.
A lot of people – men and women both – feel ashamed of being virgins, and honestly, the way we treat virginity is profoundly fucked up. And it can be especially troubling for male virgins because there’s a lot of cultural bullshit caught up in masculine identity and sexuality. Sex is a core component of toxic masculinity; your value and measure of a man is in how much sex you have and how often you have it. If you haven’t had any… well, are you really a man at all?
It’s time to talk about the shame, the stigma and the frustration that comes from being a virgin when you don’t want to be.
How our brains drive our frustration with being virginity
Why toxic masculinity is behind the shame of being a male virgin
How society creates pressure to lose your virginity as soon as possible
I’ve been listening to your show for a while now and really like your approach to handling communication within a relationship. I have a question for you as both a perpetual worrier and former long-term single lady. I hadn’t been dating for the better part of the previous 3 – 4 years due to past damage from bad relationships (narcissistic partners, self-esteem and self-image issues, not feeling good enough, etc.). I went to therapy and got a lot out of it: a new job, a new apartment in the city (Chicago), a pet cat and a boyfriend all during last year. It felt like a series of huge milestones and I’ve been having an amazing time with my current boyfriend ever since.
Based on the past advice of my therapist, I tried to hold back on some of the behaviors before that lead me to be too clingy which has helped out tremendously. He has different views than me politically, which I’m trying to factor in towards trying to understand him better and appreciate his history more. (I’m a Democrat from the Midwest, he’s a Conservative from the South who moved up here for work a bit ago.) We have so much fun together and get along extremely well but now that we’re at the 6 month mark, we’re getting accustomed to being at each other’s places all the time and have been considering moving in together. (Convenient as he’s my upstairs neighbor at my apartment. I know I know, it sounds weird but we both thought about it for a while before actively dating in case it would make things weird between the two of us.)
So this is the point where my question comes into play: I get caught in my own head often due to internalized self-doubt towards a lot for things like job interviews, friendships and now this. We say ‘I love you’ regularly, have an active sex life, cook together all the time, are supportive of each other, communicate openly about what’s bothering us, my parents love him and everything. But there’s still that annoying voice in the back of my head that makes me assume the worst and that ‘everything isn’t real’ and ‘I’ll just screw it up sometime soon like I always do by being too needy, clingy, distant, etc’. It’s that awful niggling feeling in the back of your mind that insists on sowing a seed of doubt that keeps building. I wish I knew how to shut it up. I don’t want to assume it’s going to end badly or anything like that, lest it become a self-fulfilling prophecy which will make both of us feel awful.
Is this a standard thing that happens after dating seriously for a while? My last long relationship ended in 2014 so I’m doing my best to break my own past habits to feel more confident and secure.
Thanks, Anne Nonymous
You’ve got two issues going on AN, and they’re both intertwined like horny snakes.
The first is that you’ve had some bad experiences with previous partners, and they’ve left emotional scars. The second is that you have low self-esteem and it’s causing problems.
One of the things that people tend to not realize about issues like neediness is that needy behavior is almost always based around fear. Most of the ways that people act needy in relationships all revolve around assuaging fears and anxieties. This is why, for example, someone with neediness issues will over-commit to a relationship too quickly; they’re afraid that this may be their last chance for love and so they try to lock it in as quickly as possible. Always wanting to be around their partner at all times is born out of the fear that if they let their partner out of their sight for a moment, they might meet someone better.
That’s a lot of what you have going on right now, AN. You’ve been hurt before and you have a hard time believing in your own value, so you worry that your boyfriend will realize he could do better. So on the one hand, you want to cling to him like a lovesick barnacle, lest a good thing get away. On the other, you also recognize that doing so will push him away. So you try to force yourself to not be clingy.
Problem is that the clinginess is the symptom and not the cause. Trying to suppress the behavior is good, but trying to suppress the emotions that cause the behavior makes things worse. The key to actually resolving these issues is to embrace your inner kung-fu hero. As any martial artist will tell you: it’s easier to redirect force than it is to try to stop it. The same is true of negative emotions. Instead of trying to force yourself to not feel or ignore those feelings, you need to do some emotional aikido.
When you’re feeling these emotions bubble up, start by noting and naming them. What, precisely are you feeling? Is it fear, where you’re expecting a specific outcome that you want to avoid, or is it anxiety, where you’re bothered by the uncertainty of a situation? Is it jealousy, where you worry that someone will take what you have? Is it a sense of feeling worth less as a partner than other people? This can seem weird, but simply being mindful of your emotions can help dampen the negative impact on you.
Next: pay attention to the language you use to describe how you feel. Language can be deterministic and the way you talk about things directly changes how they affect you. Don’t say that you are anxious or that you are afraid or jealous; that defines your emotional state as an integral part of who you are. Instead, say that you feel anxious or jealous; feelings are inherently transitory, after all. You never feel one way all the time. Even people who suffer from chronic anxiety or phobias don’t feel them 24/7. Telling yourself that you feel, instead of you are, is a reminder that this is a temporary issue that will pass.
Now that you’ve defanged so much of the impact these feelings have, interrogate them a little. What, precisely, caused you to feel this way? Was there a particular trigger, or did it just bubble up from your subconscious out of nowhere? If it was something specific, then look at it as dispassionately as possible. Is it possible that you are looking at it in the worst possible light because that confirms your anxieties? If your friend were to describe this exact scenario as happening to them, what would you tell them? Again: mindfulness here works to help train you to recognize your triggers and how to tell when you have an actual problem and when it’s just your jerk-brain dripping poison in your ear.
Another part of how you deal with that nagging voice? Trust that things are exactly as they appear to be. Part of how low self-esteem and doubt gets you is that they make it impossible to actually believe your partner when they tell you how they feel. “This compliment doesn’t mean anything, they have to say it.” “They’re only saying that to make me feel better.” Accepting that there are no hidden agendas, that your boyfriend is being honest with you when he talks about how much he enjoys being with you, helps dilute those little drops of poison.
And finally: accept that you’re worth being loved and have a right to be happy. A lot of those negative beliefs come from believing that you aren’t allowed to love or be loved.
One caveat: if you’re still having serious doubts and or obsessive negative thoughts? Then it may be good to go back to that therapist who helped you out before.
In September of 2015, my girlfriend/fiancee of five years told me that she didn’t see a future for us. We talked, cried, yelled, cried again, talked again, until we finally ended things. I grabbed some things from the closet, packed them into my backpack, put my key on a shelf, and walked out of the door.
If I’m being entirely honest, this was a long time coming. When our relationship was in its infancy, I made a few major mistakes in the form of talking to other women online in a sexual manner, and even talked to them about possibly meeting up. I never did, but that doesn’t matter. She couldn’t possibly have known that we didn’t, and she would just have to trust my word on it. However, after catching me doing this a few times, that trust had understandably dissolved.
The last time she caught me was a little over a year into our relationship. To this day, I can’t say what caused me to do this. I haven’t done it since. I chalk it up to being some kind of fucked up kink.
Before I met my ex, I was well on my way to getting a lot of priorities in order. She even helped me reach many of my goals at the time. However, after the mistakes, I couldn’t muster up the motivation to do things. I stopped working out. I stopped putting as much effort into college. Hell, a lot of that effort was used to calm her down most days. Any argument, big or small, could set her off into thinking I may be cheating.
When things ended, I fell into a deep depression. I immediately went out and tried to find a rebound. I found a regretful one night stand, and then spent the next two years seeing neither hide nor hair of a relationship or anything resembling one. I spent night after night huddled onto my bed, binge watching Netflix while eating my sorrows away. I ran out of financial aid, and ended up having to drop out of college. I hopped from job to job, never finding anything that I felt motivated to work hard for, despite normally thinking that any job worth doing is worth doing right.
Then, I started seeing people again. I had moved in with some roommates, and being around them helped me muster up a bit of confidence. I started seeing people again, and found this one woman who I thought was amazing. We didn’t have a ton in common, but we really enjoyed spending time together. The sex was great, the chemistry was great, but she didn’t want to have a relationship with me. She’d get to points every once in a while where she’d say she was starting to see things happening, but then she slowly stopped wanting to see me. It hit me pretty hard, because it started off really great, but fizzled out way too fast. To be fair, we were spending the night together a lot, but it wasn’t one sided. Eventually, she moved on to another “friend”, and I faded into obscurity.
My car broke down about seven months into starting a the best paying job I’d ever had. Then, I had to quit that job, because I couldn’t make it in to work. I got a job back at a place I used to work at in college, but I ended up needing to move out into a one bedroom with a coworker who bailed on me—and our job—only a couple of months into our lease. Luckily, I had started moving up at work, and I’m now able to pay for all of my bills by myself. Unfortunately, this also means that I can’t afford to save up to get another car.
For the past few months, I had been seeing someone. She was understanding, considerate, and comfortable to be around. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that attracted to her, and the sex was mediocre. It was weird. Even though we had barely started doing anything, it felt like I was at the end of a fading relationship where the passion was gone, and it was like that from the beginning. We talked about things, and she said she wasn’t really feeling anything either. So, we mutually ended things.
It’s been about a month since that ended, and I just can’t motivate myself to date or even get myself into a situation where I could date. I’ve gained back a lot of weight, but I have no motivation to exercise or readjust my diet. I keep meeting women I like, but I have no motivation or confidence to speak to them about anything other than in a casual/friendly manner. I can’t really even motivate myself to do anything except keep up with the basics. I go to work, do my weekly chores, maybe play some video games or binge a show, then I go to sleep. I hang out with friends, but most of them are couples, and the other singles in the friend group are all guys, and I’m not romantically attracted to men. I’m not as depressed as I was, but I’m still deeply unmotivated.
I just don’t know what to do to get myself motivated again. I just turned 31, and I’m worried that if I don’t figure things out soon, then I’ll just be alone for the rest of my life.
Stuck in Neutral
Y’know SiN, I think you’re in a similar boat to AN up there. You’ve had a lot of shitty things happen to you in rapid succession and it’s taken its toll on you. The problem is, unlike AN… I don’t think you’ve really stopped to process or deal with everything. That’s going to fuck with you.
Now keep in mind that Dr. NerdLove is NOT a real doctor but… a lot of what you’re describing sounds a lot like the symptoms of chronic depression.
Depression is something I’ve wrestled with for most of my adult life, and it took a while for me to realize that I was having a problem with it. One of the mistakes that a lot of people make is that they tend to assume that depression is “the blues” when in reality, it’s often better described as “the grays”. It’s less feeling bad for yourself and more not feeling. You’re drifting through your life like a grey specter. You feel worthless, in the descriptive sense rather than the pejorative. It’s not that you’re bad – though that’s frequently part of it – but that you have no worth. Nothing is worth doing, life doesn’t have any real meaning and you just have no real motivation to do anything. You find a few things to fill the hours, even though you don’t take any joy from them, but otherwise, you just exist.
Part of what’s especially pernicious about depression is that you feel guilty about having it. You look around your life and recognize that hey, things aren’t great, but you really don’t have a reason to be depressed. Since you can’t point at any one thing that can justify those feelings, you feel like you’re doing something wrong. You feel like you should be able to just drag yourself out of it. But you can’t. And so you feel like a loser for feeling bad.
But I’m here to tell you from experience: you really can’t just grit your teeth and dig your way out. You need help. Sometimes that help is talk therapy. Other times that help comes in the form of CBT exercises. And still other times that help means medication. But the important part is getting that help.
You don’t need to be talking to a loudmouth with a blog, SiN, you need to talk to a mental health professional. Don’t worry if money is tight; most therapists will work on a sliding scale basis. If you can’t find someone in your area, you may want to try a service like Amwell and arrange sessions over Skype.
But get that help, SiN. That will help you dig your way out of the hole you’re in and help you find your motivation again.
I’m writing to you because I think I have a problem with my girlfriend and I’m not sure how to solve it. First of all, English is not my first language so I’m sorry for any mistake in my letter.
I’ve been with her for 6 years and we moved together last year. It’s been great so far and we’re still very happy together, or at least I think we are. I’m not into the idea of marriage and family but, if I was, I’m sure she’d be the girl I’d want to spend the rest of my life with.
I think it’s perfectly normal for a couple that has been together so long to fall into a sort of “routine” and not be as passionately in love as one is in the first years of the relationship. We still have a good time together and have a regular sex life, we’re still very attracted to each other and the moving together part has been mostly good.
So my problem started a few weeks ago, when she first expressed the interest in seeing other people and having an open relationship. We discussed it a few times and she’s always the one to be more open and interested in the idea. I asked her if this was about someone else in particular and she said no, just that it was something she thought could be good for us and could “break the routine”, allowing us to have new experiences knowing that we will be stronger because of this. She told me that she’s so sure about our relationship that she’s willing to do this because she knows she wants to be with me, it’s just about new experiences and not about me or any doubts about or relationship.
That’s all fine and it completely makes sense to me. I would potentially be interested in meeting other people and having an open relationship, but the truth is that it scares me. Rationally speaking, I know monogamy is against our nature as animals and it’s very hard to be with the same person for many years without feeling the need of exploring new things. On the other hand, I never considered open relationships to be a good idea, and there’s where I’d really love your opinion. I don’t know anybody who’s ever been in one, but I’m afraid it might lead to heartbreak, jealousy, trust issues and breakup.
My girlfriend and I agree on the need to establish some ground rules, like no exes or no close friends. One of the rules she suggested was “no sex, just making out or fooling around”. Do you think it would be better – or less hard to tolerate? Do you have specific advice about establishing rules?
I know it’d be hard for me, but I also want to say yes to my girlfriend and try to make it work, if that’s what she wants. She brought it up four or five times already, so I’m sure it’s something she’s really thinking about. The thought of her “wanting more” scares me and upsets me, but I don’t know if it’s just pride or the realistic chance of losing her. I want to be mature about this and enjoy all the positive aspects, but I just don’t know if something like this could ever end up well for the both of us.
Thank you for you time
Opening The Door
One of the biggest – and most damaging – lies that we tell ourselves about relationships is that monogamy is natural and easy. We get told that if we really love someone, then we never think of anyone else and we never want anyone else. This cultural lie has caused more unnecessary emotional pain and trauma in relationships than… damn near any other myth we tell about relationships, really. The truth is that, we’re novelty-seeking mammals and part of the whole package is that we are literally built for multiple partners. Biological issue like the Coolidge Effect kick in and suddenly sex with the same partner doesn’t have the same zing as it did before; our brains don’t produce the same levels of dopamine and oxytocin during sex as it does with a new partner.
Now the fact that monogamy isn’t natural to us doesn’t mean that it’s bad, or wrong… just that it’s difficult. It’s perfectly normal to want to sleep with other people, no matter how much you love and desire your partner. A monogamous commitment just means that you choose not to.
But monogamy isn’t for everyone and that 7-year itch isn’t entirely bullshit. For a lot of people, there comes a point where they may love their partner… but they also want to sleep with other people.
And that’s where your girlfriend seems to be, OTD. She’s made it pretty clear that she really wants to open things up. So clear that, honestly, I’m wondering if the next time the topic comes up, it’ll be as an ultimatum, instead of a request. You, on the other hand, are pretty sanguine about it. In theory, yes, it’s an opportunity for you too. In practice, it may not be. In general, it can be easier for women in open relationships to find partners than it is for men. Women tend to be a little more cautious around men who claim to be open or poly, for good reason; many a woman has found out after the fact that the other partner in the “open” relationship had no idea about the arrangement. Men… tend to not care quite as much.
But that aside… what are the risks to your relationship? Will opening things up lead to jealousy or heartbreak? Could it lead to the end of your relationship? Sure, that’s a possibility… but then again, that’s a possibility in a closed relationship, too. Monogamy isn’t a Protection Against Break Ups spell; closed relationships fall apart just as readily and often as open ones.
Does this mean that opening things up is a good idea for you? That’s harder to say. Just as monogamy isn’t for everyone, neither are open relationships. It takes a high level of trust and open communication to make an open relationship work; because it involves other people and the thrill of the new, it’s easy to inadvertently let your main relationship suffer while you’re caught up in that New Relationship Energy.
It’s pretty clear that you’re not really keen on the idea. But at the same time, there have been plenty of couples who started off with one partner begrudgingly agreeing to things and then starting to love it themselves. Maybe that’s you. Maybe it’s not. Only you can say.
What I will say is that you two need to do a lot of research and talking before you agree to anything. Trying to open things up when you’re unprepared is a great way to do a lot of unintentional damage to your relationship. So you and your girlfriend need to do your due diligence and a hell of a lot of studying. I strongly recommend that you start with several books: Opening Up by Tristan Taormino, More Than Two by Franklin Veaux and Eve Rickart, and Mating In Captivity by Esther Perel. The first two will help give you practical advice on the best practices with regards to opening up a relationship; the third will help you understand why monogamy can be such a challenge. I also recommend Building Open Relationships by my friend Dr. Liz Powell, which is available for pre-order.
If – and this is a mighty big if – you do decide to give an open relationship a chance, then start slow. Even if you think you’re ready for things, diving in head first is often a recipe for disaster. It can be incredibly demoralizing when your girlfriend goes out and immediately finds a partner, especially when you’re still getting used to the idea. Even just “fooling around”, might be enough to kick your soul in the nuts. Take baby steps at first: kissing and make-outs to start, and see how you feel. You may realize that you’re cool with it. Or it may be a kick in the gut at first, but with time and communication, you’ll find that you’re ok.
And it may be that you will have to ask your girlfriend to hold up while you look for a partner. If your relationship ends up functionally only open on her side, this can torpedo something that might work if things were more equitable. The fact that you are looking for a little strange doesn’t negate your responsibility to each others’ happiness and well-being.
Jealousy will happen. But if the two of you can communicate clearly, openly and with empathy and compassion, you can work through it.
This can be hard… but it could also be amazing. Only you will know if this is something that’s right for you. So do your research and do a lot of talking before you decide, one way or the other.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I recently went through an extensive security clearance update, and during that process (which, for my level of clearance is quite extensive) my brother-in-law and sister-in-law were investigated for various things.
During that investigation it was revealed that my brother-in-law had been having multiple affairs during the marriage and was currently carrying on another long term affair. I didn’t inform my sister-in-law immediately with the information, because at the time I didn’t think any good would come from it.
This week, this affair started to affect my husbands business in the form of a new secretary; she proceeded to tell everyone in the office all about her liaison with my brother-in-law, including customers. So my husband and I told my sister-in-law about the secretary… and all of the others.
Of course she has now accused us of lying and trying to profit from telling her. Not sure what we would be gaining…
Anyway, now my husband has disowned her, and I was thinking of just posting everything online and letting the chips fall where they may.
So my question is do I have someone secretly give her the photos, emails, texts, voicemail recordings etc. or do I just cut ties and let her figure it out on her own? You were definitely right when you said in a previous article that the wounded always “shoots the messenger”, even when it’s family. Any insight on how to repair this and move forward? Or is my husband right, and we should just cut ties and forget them and when my brother-in-law eventually leaves for the young girl tell her I told you so?
Caught In The Middle
My advice is to stay the hell out of it, CitM. This is humiliating enough for your sister-in-law. It’s bad enough that her husband is cheating on her; having other people rubbing her nose in it just pours salt on an already gaping wound.
Your brother-in-law is already twenty pounds of asshole in a five pound sack and his current paramour isn’t much better. It’d be far better for your husband to apply the Chair Leg of Truth upside his brother’s head; not only is he treating his wife abominably, but it’s also spilling out into your lives as well. But your sister-in-law, unpleasant as she may be acting right now, is the victim here. I’m not surprised that she lashed out the way that she did; she’s feeling hurt and humiliated. She’s having an entirely unsurprising reaction to humiliating news; accusing you of making it all up is a defense mechanism. It’s a way of trying to force this to not be happening. She’s being incredibly unpleasant, yes, but she needs sympathy right now.
Now, if you want to give her some leverage in the divorce proceedings that she really should be initiating… well, offering her the evidence will certainly give her a leg up on the guy who’s not only cheating on her but dragging everyone else into his mess. But otherwise: keep out of it. This isn’t your fight, and the petty satisfaction isn’t going to be worth the profound pain that you’ll inflict on her if you decide to say “I told you so.”
How Do You Solve The Incel Problem? | Paging Dr. NerdLove - YouTube
Over the last couple of weeks, it seems as though the world has been talking about incels – people who refer to themselves as being involuntarily celibate. But while we are all bringing attention to the existence of incels, but there aren’t many resources for people who want to stop being involuntarily celibate. What is the real issue that drives otherwise good people to the incel community? How can someone who calls themselves involuntarily celibate break the cycle and escape the hate and misogyny that’s inherent in the incel scene?
Why getting laid and sex workers aren’t the solution to the problem with incels
How incels doom themselves to failure when they try to get better
Why sex and sexual frustration isn’t the root of the problem
How the incel community deliberately makes people feel worse
The key to fixing the real problem that’s driving incels
I am 5 years into a relationship, and we’ve lived together for 3 of those years. During the past year, a new neighbor moved in next door. She is about a decade younger than us, and often spends time working in her backyard wearing tight short-shorts and an exercise bra. She’s truly gorgeous and model fit with bleached blonde hair. Our kitchen window is above our sink and stove, and it looks directly into her backyard.
My partner has become so distracted by her that it’s uncomfortable for me to be in my own kitchen. I do my best to go about my business and be calm – and keep the curtain closed – but I frequently catch him staring out the window, finding excuses to open the curtains, and coming up with reasons to be in the yard. I’ve even seen him standing in front of the window – with the top half of the window exposed – at night after showering, naked.
I feel a sense of dread in my stomach when I’m heading home, wondering if she’ll be out in the yard today. I’ve brought up my discomfort with my partner twice. The first time, he completely denied it. The next day, he asked me to marry him. The second time he also pretended it wasn’t happening.
I do want to have compassion for him. It must be so exciting to him to have a free show in his own kitchen. But it’s hard to hold my head high. Do you have any insight or advice on how to talk to him about this, or about what I should do?
Tired Of The Show
Humans are built to seek out variety and novelty in virtually all forms of stimulus. One of the weirder quirks of the human psyche is how easily we get used to just about anything. It’s called hedonic adaptation; once we adapt to a particular stimuli, we return to our pre-existing baseline. So as comfy as your bed may be, after a certain amount of time, it becomes just “your bed”. As delicious as your favorite food may be, eat enough of it and it’s just “food”. And no matter how much you love and desire your partner, there comes a point where they’re your baseline. They don’t give you the same thrill as they did when things were new and exciting.
One of the ways this manifests is the way that we react when we see someone hot. We get that little dopamine hit straight to the brain and want more. So we keep looking. It’s a natural and nearly universal response, across cultures, relationship status and gender.
But the fact that it’s natural and understandable doesn’t change the fact that sometimes you end up acting like an asshole in the process.
Case in point: your boyfriend, ToTS. It’s normal that he’s going to be interested in checking out your new hot neighbor. What he’s doing, however, is rude, hurtful, and honestly, really creepy. First and foremost, there’s the fact that he’s ignoring how uncomfortable this is making you. The fact that you’ve called him out on this, twice, and he’s still doing it? That’s unacceptable. Distracting you with a proposal or just straight up lying? That’s adding insult to injury; he’s behaving as though you’re stupid or that he can bluff his way into making you doubt your own lying eyes.
Then there’s the way he’s behaving. Sensible folks who’d like to check someone out without being weird about it learn to use their peripheral vision. One can still get an eyeful without staring like a horny 12 year old. But starting to hang out in front of the window naked? That’s some escalating behavior right there. I’m wondering if your boyfriend doesn’t have a voyeur fetish… or if he’s hoping to get caught by said hot neighbor. Maybe he’s starting to hope that she’ll see his naked self staring out the window and invite him over like a bad porno.
What is more likely to happen is that she’s going to get seriously weirded out and possibly call the cops on him because folks generally don’t like to be dragged into someone else’s sexual fantasy without their consent.
So here’s what I suggest: you need to have a come-to-Jesus talk with your boyfriend. I don’t know how blunt you were about how uncomfortable he was making you the first two times you brought this up, but now’s the time to bring out the Chair Leg of Truth. He needs to know, in no uncertain terms that the way he’s ogling the neighbor is making you incredibly uncomfortable and the fact that he’s blown you off twice now is hurtful and unacceptable. Moreover, he’s embarrassing himself and acting like a giant creeper. A 12 year old might be forgiven for acting like this – once – because they don’t know better. Your boyfriend, however, is a grown-ass man. He presumably has had enough experience that all the blood shouldn’t leave his brain at seeing a woman in her underwear, nor to act in such a leering manner that it makes his girlfriend uncomfortable.
This is not a major ask, ToTS. This is equal parts basic consideration and simple emotional intelligence. He should be able to make it through the world without a glimpse of an attractive woman in a sports bra is turning him into the cartoon wolf from Red Hot Riding Hood. He should also be able to get that this hurts you and realize that maybe he should stop.
So lay all of that out there, as bluntly and directly as you humanly can. There shouldn’t be any room to doubt how fucked up he’s behaving and how it’s making you feel. Moreover, he needs to know that he needs to grow the fuck up and knock it the fuck off. With luck, a sharp smack upside the head with a clue-by-four will do the trick and he’ll shape up already.
And if he doesn’t? Then it’s time to dump this guy so hard his parents get divorced retroactively, because the only way you have to go from there is down.
I just started reading your blog and watching your YouTube channel and I have to say it’s been a lot of fun and has helped me finally try the whole dating thing out. But I’ve tried recently, and it hasn’t gone magnificently.
So I have this coworker- we’ll call her T. Me and T got along wonderfully. She has my exact same sense of humor, we joke around all the time, we have generally similar interests, and I’m never unhappy when I’m around her. Although it did take me a good 3-4 months for me to realize “yeah, I’m totally into her”.
When I made up my mind, I tried to find some way for us to grow closer together so that a relationship could become more feasible. Not dates, but just doing things together outside of work to get closer.
She’s a writer, so I asked if she wanted to read one of her stories at an open mic with me. She said she was too nervous. I asked her if she wanted to play a couch co-op multiplayer game sometime. She said she had only one controller. The only place outside of work is at a gas station and that’s only for a few minutes after work.
After those simple hang outs failed, I decided I was just going to ask her out straight up. I said to her “T, you’re fun. We should do something fun. Do you wanna go out bowling?” At first she said yes, but later that night said that it would be more fun if we went out for breakfast….and invited all of our other coworkers too. I couldn’t say no or that I just wanted it to be the two of us because I had tried so hard to get close to this point and any opportunity just to be with her I would gladly take.
Some time passes, we still get along great and I decided that enough was enough. I sensed something more between us and I wanted to stop fucking around and actually act upon it. One night at the gas station, I asked her “do you wanna be more than just friends?”. I then went on to say that I thought she was funny and likable and pretty as hell. I said that I was never unhappy when I was around her and I wanted to make her as happy as she made me.
She said she would think about it and that she had no idea I had a crush on her. We parted ways and I didn’t contact her so she would have plenty of space and time to think.
When she got back to me, she said that she wanted to stay friends because her anxiety and nervousness would lead to her fucking something up and hurting me. She said that really later down the line she might like to try, but she didn’t want to rush anything. She also added that she didn’t want work to become awkward.
I said that it was okay and that I didn’t want to pressure her into doing anything. I also added that whenever she was ready, I probably will still feel the same.
About a month passes and we work past the initial awkward phase at work and soon start to interact as if nothing happened (minus flirting, that has been toned down). I soon discover that another coworker of mine, we’ll call him M, is also into T. T also flirts with and talks with M more than me, especially after I revealed my feelings, so I bet there’s a strong chance that they either want to date or may even already be dating.
And this hurts. I hold no ill will towards either of them or anything, but it just plain hurts and even though I don’t know if they’re officially in a relationship yet, there’s no doubt I’m jealous as hell. Not to mention that if they are dating, all the reasons she didn’t want me were null and void and just boiled down to the fact that she wasn’t attracted to me. I don’t know if I was lied to or what.
I respect M and while he acts like a sarcastic snarky asshole to some people, he doesn’t to me. So I would love to still be friends with both of them, but I still totally have feelings for T. So now I’m completely lost as to what to do next. A part of me wants to just move on, but I still have the slightest glimmer of hope that T and I may still officially date. And if we don’t and T and M become a thing, what can I do to accept that? Should I confront them and just throw it out there that I’m jealous and hurting? Or do I just go on pretending I don’t know anything and just keep my jealousy to myself?
First of all, OC, let me congratulate you. You stepped up, and asked someone out on a date. That’s good. That takes guts. You should be proud of yourself for putting yourself out there like that.
Now let me explain what’s been going on. T isn’t interested in you and she’s been trying to tell you from the jump. She gets along with you and likes talking with you at work, but she’s not interested in seeing you outside of that. All those times she gave you reasons why she couldn’t (or wouldn’t) go do stuff with you? Those were soft “nos”, socially polite, plausible excuses to turn someone down.
Telling someone “no” directly is often seen as being rude or harsh and women in particular are socialized to be deferential and considerate of other people’s feelings. So instead of saying “no, thanks” and possibly hurting your feelings, she’s been giving throwing obstacles in the way and hoping that you get the hint. This way she can say “no” without actually saying the words and making you feel bad. Instead of drawing attention to the fact that you like her but she doesn’t like you the same way, she’s giving you an out. You can both agree to pretend it’s not you, it’s just bad luck/fate/whatever and everybody goes their separate ways.
This includes her telling you “maybe in the future”; it’s a way of kicking the can down the road in hopes that it just won’t come up again.
Now would it be easier if she just said “hey, thanks but I’d rather stay work friends?” Yes, probably. But socialization is tough to break and, honestly, a lot of dudes react badly to being turned down. There are dozens of women getting threatened, screamed at or physically attacked after saying “no, thanks” on a weekly basis. So for many people, those soft “nos” are safer, even if they can cause confusion.
Yes, you know that you’re not like that. But that’s still a serious risk for her. Plus, like I said: she’s trying to let you down gently.
And hey, it sucks. I get that. Being rejected hurts. But all this means is that you and she weren’t right for one another. The best thing you can do is accept this and move on. Because, honestly? There’s nothing else for you to do, especially if you really want to be friends with the both of them.
Ask yourself: what does confronting them do? What would you hope to come from that? She knows how you feel; telling her again isn’t going to change her mind. Similarly, it’s not as though she’s flirting with someone else at you. She’s not doing this to make you upset. She’s flirting with M because she digs him. You honestly don’t enter into the equation at all. It sucks that you’re envious but that’s not their responsibility. That’s on you to deal with. Accept that you’re sad that it didn’t work out between you and T; that’s totally legit. Tell yourself that you’re happy for the two of them and you want the best for all of them. And then move on.
You did the brave thing and you got your answer. You don’t need to spend any time wondering or waiting on her. You’re free to go find someone who does want what you have to offer. And they are out there. You just have to keep looking and putting yourself out there, just as you did before.
After Alek Minassian’s deadly attack on innocents in Toronto, scores of people decided to share their hot takes about how to “handle” the incel problem. Of course: like as not, the “problem” they focused on was that incels were angry virgins instead of the hate and misogyny that was radicalizing young men.
Worse, the solution wasn’t to deal with the anger, but to deal with the virginity.
Now, one might be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that most people would recognize the idea that maybe we should ask women to “take one for the team” in the name of preventing future attacks is both idiotic on its face and disgusting to boot. Sure, someone at The Federalist was undoubtedly limbering up their hands to produce their next hot take but c’mon. It’s The Federalist.
This, of course, was like daring the universe to prove me wrong. I may as well have stood on a mountain and declared that God has shitty aim.
You’d think I’d learn eventually.
On Wednesday, I was coming back from a lovely trip to the UK to see friends. After a nine hour enforced vacation from the Internet, I turn on my phone to discover that New York Times contributor Ross Douthat picked up the Baton of Stupid Arguments and ran with it.
So we need to talk about just what’s so mind-bogglingly wrong with the argument that the problem with incels is some sort of “sexual inequality.”
The Redistribution of Consent
In a piece entitled “The Redistribution of Sex”, Douthat’s opening premise is that we’re somehow not properly engaging with the discourse of sexual famine. Quite literally, Douthat starts with the argument that maybe the incels are on to something. By reacting with an almost gut-level response of revulsion to the hatred that incels submerge themselves in, we are evidently unwilling to recognize that there’s a real problem here.
Well we’re off to a great start….
For those more curious than martial, one useful path through this thicket is to look at areas where extremists and eccentrics from very different worlds are talking about the same subject. Such overlap is no guarantee of wisdom, but it’s often a sign that there’s something interesting going on.
Douthat then attempts to create parallels between Robin Hanson’s idea of sexual redistribution and Oxford professor Amia Srinivasan’s essay “Does Anyone Have A Right To Sex?”, arguing that Srinivasan and Hanson are merely opposite sides of the same coin, illustrating a deeper issue within society. The issue – that there are new sexual winners and losers – has led to the rise of incels and, according to Douthat, this is all because the Sexual Revolution changed things for the worse. After all, everything was fine when monogamy was legally enforced, everyone was celibate before marriage and spousal abuse and rape was politely ignored. In the process, he also drags in issues like the #MeToo movement, feminism and the fact that women are less interested in conservative men because sure, why not. Now the number of people pairing up is in decline, men and women can’t relate, dogs and cats are living together and since feminists haven’t captured the ghost of Hugh Hefner, not having as much sex as humanly possible is bad.
Since society refuses to follow Douthat’s wisdom and return to religiously mandated monogamy and the fetishization of female virginity, the only option is to let men get jerked off by the Invisible Hand of the Free Market and thus hookers and sex robots.
No, for real.
Actual quote time:
But I expect the logic of commerce and technology will be consciously harnessed, as already in pornography, to address the unhappiness of incels, be they angry and dangerous or simply depressed and despairing. The left’s increasing zeal to transform prostitution into legalized and regulated “sex work” will have this end implicitly in mind, the libertarian (and general male) fascination with virtual-reality porn and sex robots will increase as those technologies improve — and at a certain point, without anyone formally debating the idea of a right to sex, right-thinking people will simply come to agree that some such right exists, and that it makes sense to look to some combination of changed laws, new technologies and evolved mores to fulfill it.
“…are you really that dumb or do you take lessons?”
Now it’s pretty clear that Douthat intended for this to be some sort of “CHECKMATE, LIBERALS.” His entire argument is structured to prove that liberals are so dedicated to changing sexual mores that we’re inevitably going to de-stigmatize sex-work and make WestWorld real.
As one might expect, his clarifications haven’t helped. In fact, it has actually made things worse.
But What About The Menz?
We’ll start with Douthat’s first attempt at explaining:
1. American society presents an interesting combination: Our cultural norms and prevailing messages have dramatically elevated the importance of sex to the good life; at the same time, we are increasingly failing to successfully pair people off.
There’re a number of errors here. First, as Helen Rosner points out: the idea that sex is only recently important to happiness is kind of absurd. It’s a little difficult to believe that Douthat honestly believes that the importance of sexual satisfaction is at all new. Livy wrote about the importance of good sex during the height of the Roman empire. Art history is as much the history of porn as it is religious iconography.
Honestly there’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to banging.
Even if we accept that he only means American society, it’s still bullshit. Benjamin Franklin was writing about why MILFs and cougars are the best lays before the country even existed. It’s more accurate to say instead that American society has only recently accepted that maybe women and LGBT people were deserving of sexual satisfaction too. The acceptance that other people might have sexual agency is recent indeed. Hell, stating that women masturbated was enough to get Alfred Kinsey condemned by an act of Congress.
But incel culture is distilled “what about the menz” concern trolling, and Douthat seems unconcerned with what increased sexual rights for women and minorities might mean for the so-called marketplace. The message – and the failure to live up to it – is what’s important.
This message – that women are the reward for masculinity – is part of the reason why incels are angry and bitter. They believe that they’ve been denied the rewards they deserve for existing as men. Chad isn’t just their enemy, Chad is the avatar of all the men “hoarding” their sexual reward. Stacy is the avatar of all the women they desire who refuse to give them what they feel they deserve. And Becky is even worse; Becky is supposed to be their equal… and even she ignores them for Chads.
You really can’t make this shit up.
“Successfully pairing people off” in this case isn’t the sanctified relationship that Douthat imagines. It’s being given the trophy for having a Y-chromosome and a dick.
Which leads us into the second problem with Douthat’s argument:
The Lack of Sex Isn’t Making Incel Men Go Crazy
The next indication that Douthat has misunderstood the problem with incels comes in his very next tweet:
2. This means the “incel” phenomenon isn’t just reducible to its toxic violent misogynistic form; there’s a large sexless population (not just young and male but female, older, gay, etc.) caught in a psychic vice btw the culture’s obsession w/sex and its absence from their lives.
Now in fairness, I will agree that Douthat has a minor point here. There are, indeed, many people out there who are sexually frustrated or who have problems finding partners. Disabled people, for example, have a profound difficulty being seen as sexual beings at all. Society as a whole prefers to pretend that having cerebral palsy or spina bifida removes your sexuality entirely. Put someone on crutches or in a wheelchair and suddenly their genitals vanish; they become as smooth and sexless as fashion dolls. Trying to find a sexual partner when you’re visibly disabled often means having to navigate between two extremes: people who refuse to acknowledge you sexually and fetishists who only see your disability.
In fact, The Sessions is quite possibly the only piece of mainstream media out there that actually talks about this.
Similarly, racism, sexism and homophobia all mean that many people have harder times being accepted, sexually. Asian men, for example, have long been portrayed as insufficiently masculine. Over a century of racist mockery has stereotyped them as feminine at best and sexually null at worst. Meanwhile, Western standards of beauty which prioritize Caucasian features mean that black women – especially those with darker skin or more prominent sub-Saharan features – are often seen as being less desirable. Trans people, and trans women in particular, are still treated as punchlines rather than potential sexual partners. “Trap” jokes abound, as do public expressions of disgust over the suspicion that a woman wasn’t assigned female at birth. And if their gender presentation doesn’t allow them to “pass” indistinguishably, then they become even greater targets for abuse.
In fact, women are specifically excluded from incel communities. Incels.me – the community that sprang up once Reddit banned most of the incel boards – makes this clear: women by definition aren’t incels.
Douthat tries to play semantic games by pretending that there’s more to the incel phenomenon and in doing so destroys his own argument. It’s as clear an indicator that he’s never actually visited any incel boards or websites as you may want. There’s no “reducing” the incel phenomenon to toxic violence because that’s exactly what it’s about.
Trying to group incels in amongst people who have difficulty finding sexual or romantic partners is disingenuous at best and intellectually dishonest at worst. You can’t hand-wave away the fact that the incel community is about hate, as though it were a minor detail. It’s not some inconsequential curiosity, a strange triviality. The misogyny of the incel community is so deep that they refuse to refer to women as women. Women are dehumanized as femoids, foids and roasties. Rape fantasies, forced breeding and other violent delights are described in intense detail. Murders of “normies” are celebrated.
Hate isn’t a variation of the “incel phenomenon”. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. It’s the foundation and bedrock of the entire community.
“What? Women Are Things”
Like many others before him, Douthat has fallen victim for one of the classic blunders. The most common is “don’t trust hateful assholes to be honest about themselves” but only slightly less well known is this: sex isn’t a goddamn commodity. Like Hanson before him, Douthat takes the position that hey, maybe we should take the time to consider that the incels have a point.
(A point, incidentally, that involves women as sexual chattel but you don’t make an omelette without enslaving a few eggs.)
It’s accepted as writ that the problem is that hate is just the byproduct of blue-balls. Douthat only varies from Hanson on the solution.
In accepting this cause, however, Douthat further sabotages his own argument. Comparing incels’ complaints to the circumstances presented in Srinivasan’s essay doesn’t even manage to be wrong. It’s such a misunderstanding of what Srinivasan laid out that it almost has to be intentional. Institutional sexism, racism and ableism is night and day different from the belief that you’re entitled to sex and – more importantly – sex with extremely specific women.
Similarly, Douthat’s argument that sexual inequality and incels in particular are the result of the Sexual Revolution somehow making it harder for people to pair off misses the point so completely that it’s almost absurd. It’s unavoidably clear that Douthat hasn’t actually, y’know, read any of the incel boards. He’s far too quick to take them at their word and use them as the latest bugbear in his distaste for current sexual mores and use it as a counterpoint to Srinivasan’s essay.
But at the same time, he’s also too quick to accept the central premise of Hanson’s thought-experiment as fact: the idea that sex has become a distributable resource. And that, in and of itself, is an exemplar of why we continue to misunderstand the issues behind the incel community.
The idea that sex is something that can be distributed equitably is beyond absurd. Treating sex as a commodity that can be traded and distributed is why incels exist. It’s the commodity-model of sex taken to an illogical extreme. Where the commodity model of sex focuses on the “gatekeeping” aspect, Hanson, like incels, treats women as the commodity.
Now, in his “clarification” on Twitter, Douthat insists that he’s not arguing in favor of an equitable distribution of sex, just that it will probably happen.
7. Instead I think the likely response will be commercial-technical approach dressed in the language of social justice and libertarianism. The left pushes for normalizing sex work, the techno-futurist right for virtual sex, and this combination presents as a tacit “right to sex.”
But the reason why so many people had such a visceral reaction has little to do with whether people thought Douthat was agreeing with Hanson or not. The problem many people had was that Douthat agreed that women were a product.
It’s that sex workers are presented as being synonymous with automatons. It’s that the “problem” is that men are complaining that they’re not getting the sex they are entitled to. And it’s the fact that that women are being relegated to a commercial product. Little things like, say, consent, are hand-waved away, just as he hand-waves misogyny and hate at the core of the incel worldview. It’s easy to do because, at the core, Douthat and Hanson agree: it’s women’s fault. And women are supposed to fix it. The only difference is in how.
Don’t Douthat (or Missing The Forest For The Trees)
It’s easy to miss that Douthat isn’t arguing in favor of sexual redistribution, just that it’s going to happen. He’s so eager to predict this carnal dystopia to own the libs that he can’t even question the underlying premise. He constructs arguments based on bullshit. Like Hanson, he starts from the presupposition that the incels have a point. There’s a sexual hierarchy and only certain people get to benefit. The ones who don’t get sex suffer and those who suffer inevitably lash out. And since women are the sexual gatekeepers, it falls to them to fix things.
Hanson thinks that women should suck the hate out of troubled men. Douthat argues that we should return to a prelapsarian era of the 1950s, when men were men and women knew their place. After all, the Sexual Revolution was triggered by greater sexual autonomy for women. Both of them are wrong.
It doesn’t help that both men – as so many others do – work from flawed premises. The first is to assume that sex is the problem, not a symptom. Incels aren’t cut off from sex because of some men hog all the sex. They aren’t bereft of partners because of some sort of sexual pecking order. They are single and sexless because their rage and hate. Expecting women to give up their own autonomy and safety in order to provide them with the healing power of orgasms is an absurdity. It puts the onus on women to fix a problem that they aren’t responsible for in the first place.
Nor would greater access to sex work be a panacea as Douthat suggests. Sex workers are already at risk for harm. Ignoring that they also have the right to consent or not consent, expecting them to service men who hate them just turns that risk to near certainty.
As I said before: the problem isn’t sex. The problem is hate.
The great irony is: there is a great deal of sexual inequality out there. There are a lot of people who have less sexual opportunity than others. But because so many of them aren’t white cisgendered men, they don’t count as part of this “crisis”.
Neither of them think about the women who are equally lonely. Who are disadvantaged by a society that allows for a narrow definition of beauty. There isn’t any thought spared for queer or trans men and women, or for the disabled. Asexuals don’t even exist to them.
We have a long way to go to help bridge the sexual conflicts in our society. But if we want to salve those wounds, we have to address the real issue. Until then, we’re just going to be stuck in a repeating cycle of..
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