Hi, Dr. NerdLove, I have read your column before and can say I am a fan of your advice. I am a young man currently enrolled in graduate school in the U.S. and having recently turned 23 years old I have never been in a romantic relationship. Not to sound arrogant, but I like to believe I have a lot going for me, I have a college degree, my own apartment with a roommate, a car, I go to school in a nice area, I try to dress well, have traveled a lot, am ambitious, and even though I am not tall I have even been told I should model before. None of this is me trying to brag, believe me, it’s just pointing out qualities of my life.
I’ve gone out on dates with girls my age over the past year and a half, I didn’t have my first kiss until 21 because I was so shy, and I believe these experiences helped me improve on my shyness a bit and at least get some initial romantic fun, however I still have never been in a relationship. None of the girls I went on dates with, with all but a few I usually met off dating apps, ever went past the first or second date and I was never really given a reason for being rejected, which I know I’m not entitled to. These young women I have been pursuing or had feelings for weren’t just conventionally hot types, but a broad range of backgrounds and lifestyles. I don’t really have a physical type when it comes to looking for my partner beyond long hair, is pretty to me, and being somewhat in shape (I am lean but not muscular). It’s much more about the individual.
I would prefer a woman close to my age who is intelligent, seeks to improve herself, is outgoing, can hold a conversation well, and has goals in life.
Maybe I am wrong but I feel like a lot of young women these days have a lot of options of men at their disposal with social media and apps and so the bar is higher. I’ve tried to cultivate an interesting and impressive life, my passions right now are photography, hiking, travel, fashion, going to new restaurants, and volunteering. I have a photography collection online and have really tried to improve my life over the last year and a half. Yet I still don’t feel as if I am good enough or meet the standard of what a desirable man should be. Perhaps trying to prove myself to be broadly appealing to women and people (nice clothes, own place, ambitious etc) isn’t the way to go, but I genuinely enjoy pushing myself towards success. I just wonder when is it enough? When is a man worthy?
What Am I Missing?
You’re asking the wrong question here, WAIM. But hey, it’s the same wrong question a lot of guys ask when they’re trying to be more appealing to women, so you’re hardly alone in this.
Now I want to say that yeah, you’ve got a lot going for you and you’ve got a pretty well-rounded life. That’s all to the good, and that’s going to help with dating and finding yourself a girlfriend.
And no, it’s not about the bar being higher or women having more options than before. Not having to rely on men for pure survival or financial security gave them more options, not dating apps, and even then, that just means that guys need more to offer than “has a steady income”. Dating apps aren’t the issue either; if anything, many – if not most’s – women’s experiences with dating apps tends to show that the bar can be so low dudes could trip over it and yet many men still can’t clear it.
The problem is dead-bang in the final question you ask: “when is a man worthy?”
Well, if you’re trying to wield Mjolnir, then when he’s on the same level as Captain America, Storm, Jane Foster, Beta Ray Bill, Vision, Superman and Wonder Woman.
(Yes, those last two actually happened.)
But, funny thing: women aren’t Mjolnir. They don’t only date “the worthy”. They date people that they like. If she likes you, then you’re “worthy”.
This is where the disconnect is happening. You list a lot of facts about your life and like I said: those are all good things and make you a more generally well-rounded person, a more interesting person and someone who’s got a lot going for him.
But that’s not what’s going to make women decide they want to date you. They have to like you to want to date you. The stuff you list up front – having a college degree, your own place, a car, etc. – those are good indications that you’re financially secure. That’s great! But that’s not going to help you woo women. Plenty of folks who don’t have degrees, who live with their parents or take public transit date and get married. Having your own car can certainly be a value-add – God knows the car-centric designs of most American cities make living without one a massive pain in the ass – but that’s not going to make someone decide that she wants to get coffee or go to an art exhibition with you.
The same goes with being well traveled, liking hiking, etc. Those are things you enjoy, things you might share with someone… but again: not necessarily what you’re missing here.
What you’re missing is how you make women feel when you interact with them. You want women to feel comfortable with you, to enjoy themselves when they’re with you, to feel excited to spend time with you. And that’s going to involve your social skills, not your equipment list.
Now I realize these are all things I’ve encouraged you and others to pursue. But having those interests or passions isn’t just about ticking off boxes on a checklist, it’s about how you put them into practice with people you meet.
Let’s take travel, for example. Liking to travel is great, having visited exotic locales is awesome, I highly recommend it for everyone. But can you talk about having been to those places? Can you tell storiesabout your adventures while you were traveling? It’s one thing to say “yeah, I go out to Los Angeles all the time”, it’s another to say “man, last time I went to LA it was crazy. I started the night at this one bar chatting with an Iranian archeologist, his Australian girlfriend and his friend the British travel facilitator to the rich and famous and before I knew it, we’d all done shots and we were piling into a Lyft to Koreatown and went to this amazing club that was hidden in a warehouse, where, check this out, the British travel guy was three shots in and started….”
What you’re doing here is threefold. First: you’re entertaining her, telling what is hopefully an amusing story about something interesting that happened to you that either gets a laugh, a “oh wow!” or a “awwww” reaction. Second: you’re telling her a little bit about who you are and what you like to do. Third: you’re giving her an idea of what life with you is like – you like being social, meeting new people and going on crazy adventures at the drop of a hat.
The first part – entertaining her and making her laugh – hits the Reward Theory of Attraction, where we instinctively prioritize relationships with people who make us feel good with their presence. The second gives her insight into who you are as a person. The third tempts her with what she might experience if she were in a relationship with you. Done well, this helps make you a more desirable potential date; you’re interesting and do interesting things and you make her laugh.
The same goes for hiking. Were you talking with someone who is into hiking as well, your interest in hiking is an opportunity for the two of you to bond over this shared interest. You would want to talk to her about her favorite hiking spots or experiences, find out more about her interests and what makes her tick. Asking questions, getting her opinions on topics, showing that you actually want to know what she thinks about things or what she likes? Those are, likewise, going to make her feel good. We instinctively like people who are similar to us, so having those shared interests and commonalities increases that sense of “we’re so similar”. By the same token, asking about her inerest, wanting to know more about her hobbies and what she enjoys about hiking invite her to talk about herself – something that we rarely experience when dealing with other people. More often than not, we encounter people who don’t listen, they just are waiting for their turn to talk.
Showing genuine interest in what she has to say and what she thinks and giving real consideration and respect to what she’s into? That is a rare gift, and one people appreciate.
Plus, by talking about things she enjoys and asking her about her favorite hiking trails or whatnot encourages her to think about positive experiences she’s had… which improve her mood, make her feel good and – importantly – helps create an association between those good feelings and you.
So rather than looking at your stats, ask yourself: how are you with projecting warmth and friendliness? How are you doing at making her feel like the most fascinating person in the world? Are you helping her enjoy herself with you, not just by being charming and delightful but by taking her on interesting dates and facilitating her having a good time?
Get that locked down and then things like your financial security, your goals, ambitions, values and interests become much more relevant. Once someone likes you and decides she may be interested in a relationship with you, then you’re going to be moving to “ok, we like each other, but are we compatible?” After all, you can like someone so much your teeth hurt… but that doesn’t mean that you and they could work as a couple.
But as I said: before you get there, first they have to like you. So that’s where you need to start putting more of your attention… and you’ll start getting more of their attention.
I have been considering asking this for a while and decided to go for it. The short question is “where do you meet people in 2023?” The long version requires context. At 29 years old, I only now have a real chance of starting to date. Home life was not great growing up, so I didn’t have a father to learn from (or mother, or any real family for that matter). College required me to work multiple jobs while going to school (as well as navigate getting screwed while transferring from a 2-year to a 4-year school). But I survived, graduated, and made a host of friends that are closer to me than my family ever was. I landed a stable job with good benefits, live independently, and have been going to therapy for some time. This is the first time in my life that I have ever felt like a complete person, and I am proud that I have made it this far.
However, throughout everything, I never had the time, money, or energy to date. I don’t really drink and I don’t like the bar/club scene (I’m a nerd, and former game developer), so that didn’t work. Two years ago, I tried dating apps for the first time. I hated it. The vast majority of matches I received were bots, and that was after I paid for premium subscriptions. I tried different pictures, advice from friends, but never had any luck. Only one, virtual date came of it, and it did not go well (we simply didn’t gel, nothing against the other person). It was a two year long waste of money. I tried meetups…only to find that most of the ones that I had any interest in were a 1-2 hour commute each way (with $25-50 parking to boot), with only a handful of RSVPs, no matter how much I messed with search settings. I tried nerdier meetups too, but with even less luck in my area.
Making matters worse, cons are now filled with people significantly younger than me, which feels really weird and off-putting. It has been suggested that I go to an International Game Developers Association meet, but the chapter in my area is filled with male Gen-Xers and college freshmen, with nobody in-between. I have made a number of awesome female friends, but they are all taken.
I feel proud that I have come so far, but I would be lying if I said that this wasn’t depressing. I’m not exactly attractive (I am 5′ 2″ and 130lbs soaking wet, with a decent number of physical and psychological flaws), but I know that I can do it. I know that I can date. I know I can have a relationship. I know that having the right smarts and personality is what matters. Hell, my female friends keep saying that I’m “safe” and “professional,” so I must be doing something right. Except that things appear to have moved on without me.
Everything seems alien and lonely to me, if I’m being honest. To make matters worse, it seems that incels have infested the dating scene around here as well, so now I have an even smaller pool because they keep chasing people away. Maybe I’m being whiny, but I feel like I have hit a wall, and I am not sure where to go from here. Do you have any advice?
Looking For Group
Here’s my question, LFG: how much are you actually participating in these events you’re going to? Are you going and just kinda standing around with your hands in your pockets (or, worse, pretending to check your phone so you don’t look like you’re just standing around with your hands in your pockets)? Or are you going to these, talking with people, making connections and building friendships?
One of the things I see over and over again, especially in guys who talk about the places they’ve tried meeting people, is that they tend to go to meetups, classes, hang-outs and the like but don’t really participate. They go, but once they’re there, it’s as if they’re hoping that someone else was going to do the heavy social lifting for them. Or else they go, see that there aren’t that many women they find attractive or that the women who are there are hanging out with other people and then decide it’s not worth the effort to engage with people.
Both of those approaches work against you. If you’re going to these various events and just not taking an active role in meeting people, then you’re missing the entire point of going in the first place.
…ok, second place; the point of going in the first place is because those are activities you enjoy. But I digress.
Part of going to those events – whether a MeetUp or a convention or whatever – is to socialize. With everyone. Waiting around for the local Master Networker to make the first move or introduce you to people means that you could be waiting for a long time. Similarly, focusing only on the band of people who you think are within your age range or attractiveness levels is missing the forest for the trees. Just because someone’s older or younger than you doesn’t mean that they aren’t a good person to know or to be friends with, just as someone having a partner doesn’t mean that you can’t still talk to her and have a good time. If you’re focused entirely on meeting only people you might date, you’re going to miss a lot of opportunities to meet awesome people… who might also be the ones to introduce you to some of their friends. Their attractive, single friends.
My next question is: how often are you going to some of these events? Are you a regular at any of them, or are you just going as a one-off? This is another mistake folks make – going to a place once and never again because that one time didn’t work out is short-sighted. One of the most powerful, yet under-appreciated factors that influence who we become attracted to and start relationships with is what’s known as “propinquity” – the frequency with which we come in contact with a person. The more we see someone and spend time with them, the more likely we are to start a relationship with then – platonic or romantic. If you’re only going to these events once in a blue moon, or just once, period, then you’re missing out on opportunities to become more familiar with the other regulars, get to know them and to strike up those relationships with them.
Now, you’re not having a lot of luck with Meetups in your area… so perhaps the answer is to look closer to home and find the options that are already in your backyard that you never considered. What is there in your area that you like to do? Where are the places you like to hang out – that aren’t your apartment? What are your interests and hobbies and how could you pursue or enjoy them with other like minded people? Hanging out in those spaces and, crucially, actively engaging with other people who also spend time there will give you more opportunities to meet people. And just as with meetups, just because you aren’t meeting the women of your dreams at those doesn’t mean that you’re not meeting people who could introduce you to her.
The same goes with your awesome female friends. OK, so they’re dating people. That doesn’t mean that they can’t help you out. First: they have friends, too. Many of us meet our partners through mutual friends, after all. However, one thing you need to consider is that, again, you need to be proactive. You need to be willing to say “hey, I’m trying to get back into the dating scene, and you know what a nightmare that can be. If you know someone who you think I’d get along with, I always appreciate an introduction.”
Second: they can be your best resource when it comes to meeting other women. If you are hanging out at a venue with women who clearly enjoy your company and like spending time with you, you’re sending a signal to other women that you’re pre-vetted. You’re someone worth spending time with because hey, these other folks clearly like you; that helps make it clear you’re worth getting to know.
Third: think about where you met them. Those are likely places that you should return to – places where you’ve spent time, where people you’re compatible with hang out and where you’ve successfully connected with awesome folks.
A final thing to consider is that you may be expecting too much, too fast. A lot of people – mostly, but not exclusively men – tend to look at dating as a speed-run event, something to accomplish as quickly as possible. Many especially tend to assume that to get a date, they have to win over a woman almost as soon as they meet her.
This is a mistake. While we may experience some initial attraction the first time we meet a person, we veryrarely start relationships with people we’ve only just met. Most relationships are built over time, not via a cold approach that immediately leads to getting someone’s number and then a date and then sex and then a relationship and so on. If you ask your friends, I think you’ll find that many if not most of their relationships happened as they got to know someone over time – sometimes weeks, sometimes months. Moving from strangers to acquaintances, to friends takes time, after all; why would romantic or sexual relationships be expected to move faster?
This ties into what I said about propinquity and becoming a regular at the events and hangouts you’re going to. By going regularly, getting to know people and letting them get to know you, you not only take the pressure off yourself to be “perfect”, but you’re better able to get to know folks at a less frantic pace. That makes it easier to build the interest and chemistry that leads to a date.
Take some time, examine your actions and behaviors when you’ve been trying to meet folks and put some thought into whether you’ve overly narrowed the scope of who you try to meet. Broadening your horizons – not your type, but who you interact with and how – will help build a social network that will make meeting new people easier. Finding the places you enjoy and actually spending time in them – more than just once every few months – means you’re more likely to connect with people. Make a point of being more proactive, whether that means asking your friends for introductions, inviting them out to be your wing or simply talking with a wider array of people, and you’ll soon realize that the best place to meet folks… is almost anywhere you want to spend time.
This post was previously published on Doctornerdlove.com and is republished on medium.
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