Hello, you glowing pheromone buzzards of the Interwebs! Welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column that teaches you how to max out your social links while still having time to do battle in the Midnight Channel.
This week, it’s all about handling tricky life issues. From your parents disapproving of your girlfriend to having to break up with your roommate, I’m here to help thread those tricky needles.
Let’s do this thing.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
My letter today is about a lot of tough topics: interracial relationships, toxic families, and living in the South. I could really use your advice about all three.
I am a 30 year old white guy currently dating a 27 year old gal who is mixed-race, who I’ll call ‘D’. D and I have been dating for about eight months now, and things have been really good between us. I’ve always been open to dating people of different races, so that was never a factor for me.
My family, on the other hand, has always been against interracial dating. When I first started casually dating D, they came back at me with their usual complaints whenever I dated outside of my race. “Think of your future children!”, “I don’t think it’s right”, and the worst one: “I don’t want any black people in my family”. I told them, bluntly, that it was my life and my decision, and frankly, I didn’t care what they thought.
Since then, they’ve mostly been silent about the topic, but it still comes up from time to time. They’ve met D, and are nice to her… but I don’t know if they really accept her. Nor have they ever accepted the concept of me getting married or having kids with someone who isn’t white.
Since D and I are now months into a serious relationship, I knew I had to talk with her about my parents, and their shitty worldview. She understands why I kept quiet about it at first. Most of all, D was hurt at how my parents could be nice to her publicly, but then privately be so negative about us dating, especially since her own family has been so accepting of me.
My gf then told me that if this is how my parents continue to feel, that she would want no part of them, especially if we get married and have children. I told her I agree with her, but would try and talk with my parents one last time.
My question, Dr. NerdLove, is how do I make my folks understand that race shouldn’t be an issue? Or, if worse comes to worse, make them understand if they continue to feel that way, that I will remove them from my life? I want both my parents and D in my life, but if push comes to shove, I’m sticking by my partner, and not my parents’ crappy opinions.
Also, if any commenters have advice or experience with similar problems, I would appreciate hearing from them.
Family And Race
I don’t blame your girlfriend for being upset, FAR; there’s a special sort of gutting feeling when someone is polite to your face and horrible behind your back. Knowing that your folks are holding these beliefs—even as they do the Southern thing of putting on their polite faces when she’s around and talking shit when she leaves— can really do a number on somebody.
Sadly, though, there’s not much you can do about your parents’ beliefs. If there is one universal rule, FAR, it’s that you can’t control how other people think or feel. Assholes are gonna ass, and you can’t force them to not be assholes. Similarly, you can’t force your parents to stop being racists. The only people who can do that is, well, them.
As frustrating as this may be, the best thing you can do is focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. You can set boundaries about how they can and can’t speak to you, to your girlfriend or about your girlfriend in your presence. You can tell them that she’s important to you, you’re planning a future together that likely includes marriage and kids. You can emphasize to them that, while you don’t want to damage your relationship with them, you’re also not going to put up with bigotry. Either they can accept your relationship and your girlfriend or they can accept life without you in it.
And at that point: it’s in their hands. Either they can work to get over their beliefs or they can know that it pushed their son away. And to be honest: if your parents are that toxic, then having them out of your life is a good thing.
If it helps, time and exposure can help bring people around. Grandkids, especially, have a way of changing minds and bridging gaps. But until then: take comfort in your girlfriend and her awesome-sounding family.
I have a problem. It’s not a romance problem, but it is a relationship problem so I’m hoping you’ll be able to help me anyway.
I’m living with my best friend. As a best friend, he’s awesome. We share a lot in common, have great conversations, and he’s been there for me any time I’ve needed it. Hell, he’s gone to the grocery store at 2am in the morning to get me Midol and I had boyfriends who wouldn’t do that. He’s absolutely the best and I consider him the big brother I never had.
But... he’s not a great roommate. There’s a lot of problems, but the big one is his standard of cleanliness in the common areas. Despite being in his late 30s, he still acts like a typical college guy - nothing gets put away, piles of dishes in the sink, etc.
Frankly, it’s at the point that I don’t even use the common areas anymore because it makes me depressed to even be in them. I like to cook, but I don’t like spending an hour cleaning the kitchen to cook, and then spending another hour cleaning it again because I don’t want to leave it a mess. I can’t even remember the last time I actually made a meal in the kitchen. He talks about having friends come over to hang out, but as he doesn’t care what the house looks like, I’m the one stuck spending hours cleaning it for company or having to explain to friends why I don’t want them over without badmouthing somebody they consider a friend.
We’ve had conversations about this in the past, but it goes nowhere. He doesn’t understand why I want things put away because he’s going to just use it again in a few days. Same with wiping down the counters - why bother when the next time he make a sandwich there will be new breadcrumbs? Or why hand wash the one or two dishes he uses in the evening, might as well wait until he has a full sink of them to do them in the dishwasher? We even had an ant infestation a few years ago and I could only get him to clean up for a few weeks, he went back to his old habits as soon as the ants were gone.
At this point, I’ve accepted he isn’t going to change and if I can’t live like this, we need to live apart. However, I own the home, so me moving out isn’t an option. So, how do I ask my best friend to move out without losing him as my best friend or causing problems?
I don’t want to turn this into an argument about how messy he is, especially as I don’t want him to promise he can be better (I already know from past experience he won’t, not long term) or him to argue about how I can also be messy (sure but I try to keep it to my bedroom and at least if he’s no longer in the home it’ll just be my mess to deal with and that is way, way more tolerable than always picking up after him.) That way just seems to lead to arguments and hurt feelings. Is there a good way to tell him that I’m don’t want to live with him - or really anyone for a long time as I relearn how to maintain myself and my home in a state that makes me happy - without going into details as to why?
I need to have this conversation sooner than later. It’s starting to really affect my health and my finances with all the eating out I’m doing instead of going home to cook a proper meal like I should. Also, he’s keeps talking about paying for some of the changes I want to do in the house - like hardwood floors and replacing some of my older furniture. But I won’t even consider starting any of these home improvement projects until he’s moved out since I can’t trust him to maintain the house we have now.
One of the great paradoxes of life is that being friends with someone, even best friends, doesn’t translate into being able to live with them. In fact, in some cases, living with a friend is a great way to end that friendship.
Such as it is with you, FR. You and your roommate have an Oscar and Felix relationship and it’s starting to take its toll. So… yeah, the only thing left to do is ask him to leave. And this can be tricky. There really isn’t a way to tell somebody that you don’t want to live with them anymore without hurting their feelings. You are, in effect, breaking up with them. You can’t do this without any pain, so the best thing to do is to try to do it without any unnecessary pain.
So in keeping with best breakup practices, you want to make it quick and clean. It will still sting, but a clean break heals fastest and does the least damage. Sit him down and tell him that while you value him as a friend and a person, you’ve reached a point in your life when you need to live alone for a while. Then give him time to find a new place, but give a definite move-out date; 30 days is pretty standard with most rentals.
One thing to keep in mind is that, just like breaking up with someone, you don’t need to have a reason to want them to leave outside of “I want you to leave.” If you’re worried about it turning into an argument, then all you need to say is “I’ve decided that this is the best thing for me,” and repeat it as necessary. If you don’t give any room for negotiation, there can’t be any. It’s very simple: you’ve decided this, and it’s time for him to go. You hope he understands, but it’s what you need to do.
And then all that’s left is to just surf the awkward period until the end. Be supportive— you can help him find a new place — but be firm. It’s not going to be fun, but it is necessary. And with luck, once the tension from both the untenable living situation and the awkwardness of the move is over, your friendship will be strong enough to heal and this will just be a random pothole in an otherwise amazing relationship together.
An important note: make sure to do your due-diligence on your state’s laws. Even if you don’t have a formal arrangement between the two of you, you’ll want to make sure you’ve crossed your t’s and dotted your lower-case j’s. If you’ve been serving as a landlord, there may well be specific procedures that need to be followed. It’s doubtful that your friend will put up a fuss, but it’s good to make sure that there aren’t any surprises in store for you.
I’m trying to get a better idea of what’s going on with a certain subset of situations that I encounter in online dating. I’m doing pretty well overall, so I have few complaints, but it seems that the women who are the most forward in the lead-up to a date always flake or admit that they are actually not ready to date for some reason or another.
In the usual script of messaging, followed by proposing a date, followed by the date itself, I send the first message and propose the date about 90% of the time. I haven’t had someone who I approached this way flake in many months. The people who aren’t interested just don’t answer my messages, which gives me my answer right then and there. However, on occasion, I’ll either receive an unsolicited message, or start talking to a woman who seems really excited to be talking to me, and who will propose a date and/or send me her number first. Then, as the date approaches, they start coming across as less excited, communicating less, and then hours before the date, they cancel. A couple of times they have admitted that they just got out of a relationship, and in other cases I haven’t really gotten an explanation, but the common denominator is the higher than average interest followed by flaking. I have literally only made it to the date phase with a woman who behaved that way one time. I got the “I’m not over someone else” message after the date, which went really well, ended.
Obviously I don’t regard “are you free to get a drink this week?” or “my number is...” as some kind of ironclad legal contract, nor do I feel entitled to anyone’s time. However, the mild disappointment of being flaked on is compounded when they’re the ones who suggested we meet up and seemed excited about it. Not to mention that cancelling the same day, hours before, is simply a rude thing to do.
I’m not bothered by a one-off flake. It happens. But the fact that it’s a trend with women who act the most interested hurts a bit. I added a note to the end of my OKCupid profile gently discouraging people who are afraid of being successful (read: people rebounding) a few months ago, but it happened a couple of times since then on OKCupid and on Tinder as well.
Is this part of the rebound process? It feels like these people are daring themselves to approach the proverbial ledge, but can’t bring themselves to take the leap. It feels like I’m caught in their unhappy medium between just actually moving on, and taking a real break from dating. Do you have any insight on how I can understand this behavior and more effectively discourage unready people from approaching me? Is there a certain kind of person that women seek out for rebounds? I think I come off as rather safe and stable in my profile, which is certainly how I want someone who is interested in a long-term relationship to see me, but is that attracting people who are trying to get back into dating after a breakup? I mention my experience with women here because that’s my perspective, but is this common in other contexts too?
OK, you’re not going to like this, DD, but I’m going to be blunt: when someone flakes on you, that’s generally a sign that they’re not interested. It sounds like you’re making a good first impression — especially if they’re making the first move — but somewhere along the line between that first message and the first date, you’re losing them. It may be something about the way you come across that turns them off. It may be that they just realize they’re not feeling it after all. It may be that they just realize that no, they’re not ready to do this. Or it could be that you’re losing the emotional momentum and that excitement is bleeding away to “meh.”
And I hate to say it, but at the end of the day, sometimes the only common denominator you have in your dating experiences is you. And if this is happening consistently across dating platforms… well, the most likely candidate is that you’re triggering this somehow.
So you need to do some self-examination and experimentation. You’re going to want to change things up and see if a different approach gets different results. See about moving things offline faster: if you’re having several good back-and-forth conversations, then it’s a good time to propose a pre-date date like a quick cup of coffee to see if you have the same chemistry in person that you have online. Try working harder at building an emotional connection and really engaging them on an intellectual and emotional level; having amazing conversations with someone who seems to really “get” you is going to make someone much more excited to meet up.
It may also be good to examine some of your past interactions to find some clues. If nothing leaps out at you, then have a friend whose judgement you trust look at some of your conversations with these women and see what they think about how you’re coming across. Maybe you’re being too eager and sending a neediness vibe and that’s turning people off.
Take the time to fine-tune your approach; you’ll build up more excitement and emotional momentum and find far fewer women are flaking on you.
Oh, and lose the line about people being afraid of success; that’s just going to come across as obnoxious and push people away. Anything in your profile that even vaguely hints at people not liking you is a bad idea in general. There’s no way of phrasing it that doesn’t make you look bad, and you don’t want to plant that idea in people’s heads in the first place.
Have conflicts with your parents hurt your relationship? Have you had to evict a troublesome roommate? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments and we’ll be back in two weeks with more of your dating questions.
Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write email@example.com and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.
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. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.