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Dear Dr. V,
I feel like I'm the opposite of Shane on your show. It’s not that I date too much, I can't date at all! Here's what I mean: I prefer to meet potential girlfriends through work, mutual friends, random meet-ups, whatever. I don't like going on dating sites or going to bars because I feel like everyone knows that everyone else is there to try and hook-up. I can't take the pressure. So when I do meet someone I like, it almost always starts out as this obsessive crush where we're hanging out, either on our own or with other friends, and I feel there's something happening… but I always end up coming to a point where I confess my feelings and get turned down. I don't want to be a "player," but I also don't want to die a sexless dork. What do I do?
Ugh! Believe me you are not the first guy to come to me with this exact problem. There’s a certain type of fellow who gets into this fix, and though we haven’t actually met, I’m going to guess you fit the mold. OK, let me get my fortune-teller turban on and stare into the crystal ball: You are… probably a fairly intelligent, sensitive individual. You feel like you could be the best partner and lover for someone if you could just get the chance… but you’re also terrified of making the wrong move and getting rejected. Am I close?
Rob, you are what is known in technical terms as a “Nice Guy.” That being said, it’s very easy for others to mistake being “nice” (do you hate that word as much as I do?) for being weak or cowardly. Like I said, you’re probably scared of making a wrong move, so I wonder, is that keeping you from making any moves at all?
I would imagine this is incredibly frustrating for you. I talk a lot about how women get the short end of the stick in our culture, and we do, but I think men also get a host of conflicting and dysfunctional messages. On the one hand, there’s an ancient, underlying meta-message that you’re zapped with from the time you’re a toddler: Don’t show emotion, be assertive, take what’s yours; “Boys Don’t Cry.”
Yet at the same time, as you mature, there’s the pop-culture, pop-psychology tripe that gets laid on you about how women want a guy that’s sensitive, with the soul of an artist, a guy who loves a lady for her mind and would never do such a chauvinistic thing as to “put the moves on her” (also if you could have six-pack abs that’d be nice, too).
Meanwhile, back in Reality: Here you are, stuck in a quagmire of inaction. Let’s see if we can pull you out.
If you’re avoiding formal dating scenes like singles bars or matchmaking websites and you’re more comfortable meeting people in the way you described, cool. But you’re deceiving yourself if you don’t think the women you’re courting don’t know you’re courting them. We’re all adults here, and unless someone is completely out-to-lunch on their existence, they know when someone takes a romantic interest in them. So like it or not, the ladies know when you’re into them, and this is a good thing. There’s no need for you to, as you put it, “confess your feelings.” She already knows what’s up.
Now, I’m only suggesting this because you don’t sound like a psychopath: there’s a time to talk and a time to act. The next time you find yourself at the point in the… let’s call it an embryonic relationship: when you find yourself at that spot where the small talk’s done and there’s a feeling of intimacy… do something intimate. Hold hands, put your arm around her, even (gasp!) lean in for a kiss. Yes, it’s scary and a risk, but as I like to say, no risk, no reward. Intimacy can be very intimidating especially with someone new, at least until it’s experienced. I think when you say with words what you could be saying with actions, it destroys the opportunity, and sends a signal to your potential partner that you’re not ready to get closer.
OK, disclaimer time: Rob, like I said, you sound smart and sensitive. But if there are any idiots, psychopaths, or psychopathic idiots reading this, listen: DO NOT FORCE YOURSELF ON AN UNWILLING PERSON. I am not advocating that. If you can’t tell the difference between a romantic opportunity and an unwanted advance after the other person lets you know what’s up, please do not date. Or have any children to carry on your idiotic/psychopathic ways.
Thanks for writing in, Rob. Go Get ‘Em, Tiger!
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