Why am I having such a hard time with men? I’m a 20-year-old female who suffers from pangs of loneliness and I’ve chalked it up to sucking at dating. I’m Russian, which guys find “exotic” and alluring, and I am studying to be a doctor. I’m definitely on the higher end of the attractiveness scale and get a lot of male attention, but I feel it does me no good.
Coming from an all-girls high school and spending my Bachelor years studying my butt off, it’s been tough finding the time or circumstance to interact with decent men. Bucketloads of guys want me for sex only. I swat them like flies because that’s not what I’m after.
I also chronically end relations with a guy after only a few dates (especially if we met online) because 99% of the guys I’ve been with get attached to me at a quicker rate than I can handle. They say they want to be with me and I’m unlike anybody they’ve ever met; meanwhile, I’m mentally begging them to apply the brakes. This *premature* clingy behavior destroys chemistry and interest instantly for me, if there was any chemistry to begin with.
Most of the men I’ve had fireworks with have turned out to be manipulative scumbags but have an insane attractiveness that’s hard to get past. These are the men I’ve mostly met in person. I get bored/struggle to have chemistry with nice guys and, boy, have I TRIED to work on opening myself up. These are mostly guys from online whose profiles I meticulously examine to avoid the douchebaggery of the past. If I met a guy like this in person, I would only date if there were fireworks. Usually, there aren’t. Dates with these caring guys may as well be dates with my cousin. They are also the ones that will get clingy, and that makes things harder.
So far, so bad. Do I need a major attitude readjustment? Should I suck it up and try and develop chemistry with nicer, tamer men even though it’s so hard? Should I get off the dating apps? Why are the bad boys so attractive and WHY, for the love of God, am I, a successful, cute girl who tries to be caring and welcoming, constantly hit with the unlucky stick? — So Unlucky
Right away, in your second sentence, you say that you suffer from pangs on loneliness that you chalk up to “sucking at dating.” Well, first of all, I wouldn’t say you “suck at dating,” so much as you haven’t found a good match yet. You’re 20 — not having found a good match is hardly an indication of poor dating skills. Second of all, it’s interesting that you would chalk up pangs of loneliness to your dating status rather than, say, the status of your social life. In your five-paragraph letter, you make zero mention of a single friend, or a single place you hang out or activity you engage in (besides studying your butt off) even as a reference for a place you might meet a potential “right match,” let alone cultivate friendships. At 20, the best way to counter loneliness is not by going on endless dates, but by investing in close friendships — friendships that could very well last a lifetime if you’re lucky. Some of my best friends are those I met at 18, 19, 20 years old, and I know that isn’t unique. (For what it’s worth, I didn’t have my first real boyfriend until I was 21…).
So my most important advice to you is to stop focusing so much on dating and work, and focus instead on fostering friendships and nurturing hobbies and interests outside of studying. It’s in a close circle of friends, and during activities that stimulate you and bring you joy, where you will be most likely to meet potential dates you have more in common with than just a strong mutual physical attraction. You are more likely to find a connection of the mind and spirit and all that good stuff when you share some mutual friends or enjoy similar interests and hobbies.
Another thing that jumped out to me in your letter is how you end relationships after a few dates because the guys move too quickly for you and you are “mentally begging them to apply the brakes.” How about instead of mentally expressing yourself to these guys, you actually voice your needs and desires to them? Sure, it may do zero good and the guy may continue to progress at breakneck speed because you are so special and so unlike any other girl he’s ever met. But! What if expressing your needs is actually met with an appropriate response and the guy backs off a bit, respects your wishes, and gives you — and your new relationship — a little space to breathe and thrive? Stranger things have happened.
Finally, yes, I think you DO need an attitude adjustment, and that you should try harder to cultivate some chemistry with “nicer, tamer men” you seem to find so unattractive, even though “it’s so hard” to do. It’s not harder than getting burned over and over and over by the hot guys you have immediate fireworks with who disappoint you after a few dates, is it? I mean, if you burn your hand every time you attempt to cook on the front burner of the stove, either take a break from cooking on the stovetop, try a different burner, or put on an oven mitt, you know?
Right now, you just keep going for that burner, sans protection, and wonder why you keep getting the same result, basically saying that you don’t like food cooked any other way and that cooking another way would be too hard. Girl, it doesn’t sound like the way you’ve been cooking thus far is any good. Maybe what you think is “so hard” is actually easier, and that’s why you aren’t attracted to it. That’s why you lose attraction when the chase of the hot guys becomes too easy because they’ve shown too much interest in you so quickly. That’s why you’re pursuing a degree and a career that’s so challenging — because “easy” isn’t interesting to you.
You say you’re constantly hit with the “unlucky” stick, but your dating status has nothing to do with luck. You’ve been VERY deliberate in your pursuit of love. You’re leaving nothing to chance at all. You’re “meticulously examining” every online profile, purposely dating ONLY men you feel immediate fireworks with, and “mentally putting on the brakes” with anyone who starts turning you off (without even so much as telling them what they’re doing wrong before you dump them and move on). This isn’t bad luck, honey, and it’s definitely not opening yourself up like you swear you’ve tried so hard to do; this is plain and simple, self-sabotaging behavior. If you really want to have a happy relationship, you need to stop.
I suggest a full-on break from dating for a bit. As I said earlier, shift your focus to building friendships. Treat your pangs of loneliness with the comfort of platonic friendships, where the pressure of physical attraction and sexual chemistry is off the table (or, at least, finding and fostering these things isn’t the objective). Let mutual attraction and interest develop organically, off the dating apps and offline, in the real world, among real people, doing real things that stimulate your senses, bring you joy, and increase your self-worth. In that world, you will stand a MUCH better chance of connecting with someone who really gets you (and vice versa). And when you do, let the fireworks build over time, be vocal about your needs, and explore the thrill and excitement in the challenge of building a relationship rather than the flash thrill of chasing something pretty.
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Originally Published on Dear Wendy