What's up, Internet? Welcome to the latest installment of Ask Dr. NerdLove, the dating advice column that understands why Sir Isaac Newton is the deadliest son of a bitch in space.
This week, we have a three-fer of geeky dating concerns, from where to find that special someone, when to talk to them (and when not to) and what to do when you're convinced you're going to be Forever Alone.
Let's do this thing.
Hey Doc. Really enjoying the column. Some of your advice has been helping me quite a bit over the past few months.
I've officially been single for a year now. I've only been in two serious relationships in my life and each of them lasted four years. I ended the last one April 2013 because I realized that I wasn't getting any sort of emotional or mental stimulation from the other person. It took me far too long to end things, but I'm really glad that I did.
Anyway, this is the longest amount of time I've ever been single since I started dating and it's sort of throwing me off. I've never really been a part of the whole courtship process since my two major relationships were both with people that were my best friends beforehand. I'm sort of stuck on where to go from here.
I used to have notoriously low confidence when it came to talking to women I'm attracted to, but I've gotten better at introducing myself and actually starting conversations with people. I've had a few women I've met over the past year that were really cool and into a lot of the same things I was, but they'd all go to other guys or they'd turn out to be absolutely insane. The plus side is I've made one or two close friends instead.
I think one of my biggest problems is that I let my nerd flag fly VERY proudly. I'm a local musician in my area that's known for performing video game music at live shows. Hell, I've got a handful of gaming-related tattoos planned once I've got the money saved up. But you'd never be able to tell how nerdy I am unless you understood the references in my music. This was one of the biggest reasons my last relationship was a flop: because my ex was attracted to me because we had vaguely similar tastes in music, but the most gaming she ever did was occasionally popping in Guitar Hero with friends.
I just can't seem to find anyone that's as passionate about these things that I am. I'd settle for even close, but most women I know only casually play MMOs or Call of Duty, at best. None of them would be able to, say, tell me which Final Fantasy game is their favorite.
Those that do meet this requirement I just find I'm not physically attracted to. That's not to say they're ugly or anything; some of them are quite beautiful, they just aren't doing it for me. That's where I end up making new friends instead.
I just don't know where to start to find women with the same interests as I do. What's the secret? Where are they hiding? Is it really just a matter of being patient until someone perfect crosses paths with me?
A Bard's Tale
Hey ABT. It sounds like the problem isn't letting your nerd flag fly, it's looking for that "perfect" match, when there is no perfect match. There's the 60%, 75%, 80% match that you round up to perfect. Expecting someone to line up exactly with everything you like is a mistake. It narrows your focus and gives you tunnel vision over people who might otherwise be compatible with you.
One thing that's going to be limiting you is that you're looking for someone who's an exact match for what you're into - and that's a mistake. You don't need someone who shares all of your passions, you want someone who respects them and understands them even if they don't necessarily have them themselves. Just because she's not a hardcore JRPG fan doesn't mean that she can't appreciate that you are. Your interests don't have to line up exactly, they just have to be compatible.
Those women who play COD or MMOs? They're gamers too. They love those games. Those women who are passionate about music like you? That's a passion you both share. Cutting them off because they're not the "right" kind of gamer or "only" jam out to Rock Band occasionally ends up cutting yourself off from people who might very well be the sort of awesome person you were always looking for.
(Also, just as a side note, be careful with using the "insane" label for women. Guys have a tendency to use "crazy" or "insane" as a reflexive label for women who act in a way that's somehow inconvenient to them. It becomes a way of telling women they have no right to their feelings, that they're "overreacting" or being "irrational" to feel or act that way when in reality, we just don't want to engage with them and deal with the real issue. It's insulting to women and stigmatizing to people who have legitimate emotional or neurological issues.)
The way you find people who share your interests is to get involved with your interests. So start with those. You're a gamer. Awesome! What else? Ok, so you're a musician. Very cool. What else? What do you do with those? What does your life look like? Is it just playing music in the garage and marathon gaming sessions on the PS4? Because that's going to limit the number of people who're going to want to be involved with you. The more well-rounded you are as an individual, the more active your lifestyle, the more appealing you're going to be as a potential boyfriend. Your lifestyle is your filter - it's going to determine who is likely to come into your life and who's likely to stay.
You want to find people who're passionate about music? You want to start going to shows, take part in jam sessions, get involved in the musical community in your town. Want to find a gamer? Get involved in the gaming community. Organize meet-ups and tournaments. Take an active part in your interests in a way that brings you in contact with other people who share those interests and you'll find that meeting amazing people will start coming easier to you.
Hi Dr Nerdlove,
I don't really know how to phrase my question, but I really need to vent, I hope I don't bore you with my "troubles". I'm a girl who happens to be a geek, I accept I am very picky when it comes to guys, I don't usually like the ones that like me and the ones I like always end up having a girlfriend or living in some other place. I'm also very picky with who talks to me over the internet, if you're not my very close friend I will probably just answer you and not continue a conversation.
Lately I've been having a "guys getting mad at me because I don't talk to them problem", which I will illustrate with three separate stories:
A couple of years ago I did a semester in the U.S., I didn't really know how dating worked over there but to be fair I don't even know how it works in my own country anyway. A guy I wasn't attracted to asked for my number, I didn't have my phone with me and I didn't know my number so I gave him my facebook page instead. He started talking to me and we had common interests, but he kept talking to me all day long and I got annoyed so I stopped answering every now and then. Eventually he complained to me (via facebook chat) about how I didn't answer and not seem interested at all. I got mad at him for being so dramatic but deep down felt worried that maybe I was too much of a bad person, and that's why I was single. After that we did talk every now and then but never went out or anything.
Now to story #2, a couple of months ago a friend of mine told me he liked me, I had suspected it for over a year but secretly wished he never told me because I didn't feel attracted to him either. He finally told me and I answered that it was cool he was brave on telling me, but that I didn't feel the same way. I thought we were cool and all, but a couple of days ago he comes over on facebook chat and claims that I don't talk to him anymore. I hadn't seen him on school and I usually never talk to him over the internet, so I told him that, and that he shouldn't expect it wouldn't be a little awkward at first. I think we are okay now.
The last story happened a couple of days ago, I went over to a neighbour town to visit some friends, I told this guy who was the one I felt more comfortable around with, but once again, don't feel attracted to, so he could drive me around town and stuff. We hung out and I had a pretty good time, but once I left town he started talking to me all day every day (over the internet), I did answer him but didn't avidly continue the conversations because honestly I didn't feel like it, I wanted to do other stuff. But instead of stopping and maybe trying again another day he asks why is it so hard to have a conversation with me, why am I being so cocky. This makes me very angry, I want to keep him as a friend, but I don't want to be forced to talk to him even if I don't feel like it.
It makes me very mad when guys demand my attention, like I owe them something, it's kind of a deal breaker because I think that otherwise we could at least be pretty good friends. But it also makes me wonder if I'm the one who's wrong, that maybe I'm too full of myself or something.
The only boyfriend I've ever had was a very good friend I didn't feel attracted to but decided to give him a chance cuz he was really nice, it didn't work out, so I learned I couldn't force myself to feel attracted to somebody. Yet I still feel a lot of pressure for not liking people.
Why does this keep happening to me? Is it okay that guys demand that I should talk to them? Am I being actually too arrogant by not always answering? Am I the one who is wrong?
Thanks Dr Nerdlove,
-The Friendzoning Queen
There are two things going on here. First: you're dealing with guys who feel like they're automatically owed a woman's time and attention and when they don't get it exactly when and how they want it, they get pissed off. With the first and third examples you've given, you've got a pair of guys who you're not terribly interested in who seem very interested in you and see your refusal to like them as rude.
Except that's not how things work. Just because somebody wants something - a woman's attention, for example - doesn't mean that they're entitled to it. You aren't obligated to talk to somebody you don't want to talk to, no matter how much they want to talk to you. That's not being arrogant, that's enforcing your boundaries.
(Example number 2 is a slightly different case. That's a friend who's afraid that he's screwed things your friendship by admitting his attraction to you and isn't quite sure how to handle things. That's less being rude and more being awkward.)
The second is that you're not exactly communicating clearly either. It's one thing if these are people you're not actually interested in ever having in your life, then go ahead and cut them off. You don't owe an explanation if you don't want to give one.
However, if you do want to maintain a friendship with them - although considering the attitude a couple of them are copping, I'm not entirely sure why you'd want to - then you're going to have to at least let them know that you just don't chat much online and explain how you prefer to communicate with folks. This way, at the very least they can understand where you're coming from and not end up pissing you off by accident. Friendship is a two-way street after all; both sides have to make an effort to make things work. Sometimes that means explaining your idiosyncrasies instead of expecting people to read your mind.
It's like I've said before: women are socialized to want to be nice and to be considerate of other people's feelings - men's especially. There's a lot of pressure to go along to get along, even when that's the last thing you want to do. But not wanting to talk to someone isn't arrogance.
You and you alone get to decide who you do and don't want to talk to. Nobody else gets to decide that for you.
I feel like I am a complete failure in everything. I'm struggling with severe clinical depression, and even though I'm seeing a therapist and taking more pills than I count - some anti-depressants, some vitamin supplements, and a couple prescriptions for other things - none of it seems to be working. My mind is still mostly blank, I can barely move sometimes, and others I can barely motivate myself to get out and do things. I also obsess about finding a nice girl to be in a relationship with.
I'm 90% sure that I'm not obsessing over any single girl or woman in particular. Instead, I'm obsessing over the idea that, because I'm a 23 year old male who hasn't even been on a first date with anyone, let alone kissed or had sex, no one will want to be in a relationship with me. Accordingly, I'm trying to find ways to meet girls around where I live. Unfortunately for me, not only do I have very little energy or motivation, I have no self-esteem, confidence, or any semblance of fitness. Sometimes, I feel that even if I was sitting in front of the most beautiful woman in the world, and she was showing clear interest in me, I'd utterly fail at doing anything with that situation.
In other words, I worry about the following. I worry that I'll never find anyone to love or have sex with if I don't do that now while I'm still in my 20s. I worry that I'll be too shy, depressed, and self-deprecating to do anything even if a beautiful woman happened to fall into my lap. I worry that my lack of energy, lack of motivation, lack of confidence, and lack of self-esteem will prevent me from going out, meeting people, finding prospective partners, and experiencing a relationship.
I worry that I'll live the rest of my life as a poor, depressed, lonely, overweight, single virgin.
- Another Forever Alone
OK, all of those things you're worried about, AFA? That's your depression speaking. Almost every single one of those fears and anxieties are the voice of of that large gray weight bearing down on you, sucking your life away.
Believe me: I know that voice extremely well. I know what you're going through because I've been exactly where you are. I suffered from clinical depression too - in fact, it was so bad that during college I had a break-down and ended up having to take time off. I was a fat loser with no self-esteem and stuck in a relationship that I wouldn't realize was incredibly toxic until years later. As far as I was concerned, I was a tumor on the world and couldn't understand why anyone would even want to talk to me.
It took time and therapy and medication to work through the tangled mess of neurochemistry and emotional issues that left me holed up in my room barely able to do anything besides sleep and occasionally check my email.
The thing you need to understand - and hopefully your therapist has explained this to you - is that there isn't a one-size-fits-all treatment for depression. Depression is a complex issue and no two people respond to the same medicines and dosages the same way. Right now, the meds your doctor has you on don't seem to be working. You may need to try a different dosage, or you may need a different medication entirely. Unfortunately, it's frequently a trial-and-error process and each medication takes time to kick in… so it can feel like nothing is actually going on.
Zoloft worked for me… sort of. It lifted the weight and took the edge off things, but I spent my days feeling like my head was wrapped in cotton and I couldn't really get interested in anything. I ended up gaining 50 pounds because the only thing I gave even half a damn about was eating. So I'd just eat my favorite comfort foods because that was the closest thing I got to pleasure. It took a while to find the dosage that I actually needed.
There are three things I'd recommend for you to try in addition to therapy and medication: meditation, yoga and exercise. Mindfulness meditation is like being given the operating manual to your brain - it helps you learn how to control your thoughts instead of letting them rage out of control like a weasel with paint-thinner on its nipples. Yoga takes things in a different direction - it helps control your brain by controlling your body. In fact, many doctors prescribe it as a way of managing depression. And exercise not only helps bring your energy levels back up, but getting lost in the physicality of your body is a great way of turning your conscious brain off for a little while and let yourself just be for a while. Not only does it get the endorphins flowing in your brain, but the sense of doing something good for yourself - something that's going to improve your health and body - can really help cut through that gray haze of meaninglessness.
These are all the things I did that ultimately helped me. Believe me: if you asked me back then, I would've told you that it felt like everything would be gray and awful forever. But I got through it all. And today, I'm happier and more confident that I've ever been in my life.
And you will be, too. You're doing everything right. It takes time. It takes effort. And it's a maddeningly slow process sometimes. But it will get better if you hang in there.
Do you have a story of a date gone wrong and you don't know why? Not sure why things didn't work out with your crush and want someone to show you just where and how things went wrong? I'll be taking some longer letters to perform a Post-Mortem and let you know where it all fell apart and how to do better next time. If you have such a story, send it in and let me know you want it considered for a Post-Mortem.
In the meantime, share your thoughts and stories in the comments section, and we'll see you in two weeks with more of your questions!
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku's bi-weekly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O'Malley, AKA Dr. Nerdlove. Got a question you'd like answered? Writedoc@doctornerdlove.com and put "Kotaku" in the subject line. Man, woman, single, married, he's got advice for everyone.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr. Nerdlove is not really a doctor.