The Problem With Neediness (Or: The Anti-Sex Equation)

There’s a recurring thread I’ve seen lately online, whether it’s in the comments here or in a few of the other forae where I lurk: an increasing sense of desperation for a relationship.

As we’re running headlong into the holiday season, it’s only natural for the singletons amongst us to look around at all of the happy couples with a certain level of bitterness and envy. When you’re single and alone in a season that celebrates relationships and togetherness1 it’s hard not to feel an empty hole in your life that can only be filled with the sort of love that’s only found in coffee commercials.

Nothing says “true love” like shitty instant coffee…

But because the strongest force in the universe is irony rather than gravity, it can seem that the harder you strive for finding that special someone, the more it slips away from you. This in turn makes you even more determined to find it… and so the cycle perpetuates itself. As this goes on, you become increasingly bitter and upset, complaining about the “impossible standards” of others while simultaneously trying to meet or exceed those standards because you know that your life will be incomplete until you find that special someone.

The problem is that you’ve fallen into a classic trap: you’ve started becoming desperate and needy.

And neediness is the antithesis of attraction. It is the magic formula to make relationships disappear and drive off potential life-partners. It is the magical formula to make sex disappear.

Where Does Needy Behavior Come From?

Neediness is the state of excessive desire for affirmation, affection or reassurance from others. It’s melange of issues, involving an external locus of control mixed with low self-esteem and self-limiting beliefs that come together as a constant need for approval from others. They have put their self-worth in the hands of others, defining themselves by their relationship to other people.

Needy people often will say that they’re looking for a relationship in order to “complete” them or to find someone who brings “fulfilment” into their lives… essentially looking for someone to magically bring meaning into their lives and make them whole. They seek validation from others – in this case, a potential romantic partner – as a way of  filling the void within them.

Generally, needy behavior in relationships is an issue of perceived worth and the need for external validation. There are usually two ways that guys start becoming overly needy. The first is that they suffer from low self-esteem and have externalized their locus of control. They’re so consumed with the idea that they are worth so little that they need constant affirmation and praise from others around them. They are focused on their own perceived inadequacies like a laser and can never believe that they have any good points. They are forever looking to others for approval, asking over and over again for someone to convince them that they aren’t totally worthless.

Can’t imagine why this dude isn’t drowning in sex right now.

The other way is by putting too much value others, whether it’s a romantic partner or the concept of a relationship in general. It can seem counterintuitive: how can you value someone too much? After all, wouldn’t that just mean that they matter more to you than they do to anyone else?  And yet the need to worship one’s partner – to put them on a pedestal, to elevate them to “goddess” status – is another way of objectifying someone and remove their humanity. By projecting so much value into one’s partner, they have put themselves into a position where they feel as though they need to placate her or kiss up to her in hopes of earning her approval.

Regardless of how it came about, neediness is one of the most unattractive qualities a person can display. Not only does it display low emotional intelligence – after all, you’re showing that you are incapable of balancing your emotional needs – but needy behavior is toxic to relationships. Needy people are forever either supplicating to their partners or else becoming so dependent on others that the relationship becomes smothering.

Needy Behavior

Needy behavior manifests in a number of ways; some are more overt, while others are surprisingly subtle and are often overlooked.

The most immediate and obvious manifestation of needy behavior is acting “clingy”; the overly-needy party doesn’t want to spend a minute apart longer than is absolutely necessary. They’ll strive to spend every waking moment with their partner if at all possible. If they can’t, they may try to remain in constant contact – calling and texting repeatedly, sending email after email and freaking the fuck out if the object of their obsession takes a microsecond longer to respond than normal.

There’s a fine line between “chatting” and “waiting with sandwiches by the computer, obsessively hitting ‘check mail’ over and over again”

Perpetuators of this sort of behavior often don’t recognize that they’re being needy. More often than not, they feel that they’re showing how “passionate” or “devoted” they are, not realizing that they’re really being dependent and possessive.

Similarly, needy people may push for a relationship, getting too serious too quickly; they may want to be exclusive immediately, before they’ve even made it through the second date. They tend to be so wrapped up in the idea that their date may find someone better that they try to lock him or her down as quickly as possible.

The other most common example of needy behavior is constantly requiring reassurance and validation. When needy people get involved in a romantic relationship, they often have a perpetual feeling as though things are on the cusp of falling apart. They are always on the look out for the signs that things are going wrong and that the relationship is about to come crashing down all around them; they can’t conceive that their partner values them or their relationship and need resassurance over and over again that yes, everything’s fine, we’re good, nobody’s mad at anyone else. The constant need to take the relationship’s temperature, the mini-accusations that something’s actually wrong all take their toll and quickly turn from annoyance to active resentment.

Clinginess and supplication isn’t the only way that neediness expresses itself, however. Because a part of needy people crave the approval of others for their own self-worth, they will often go out of their way to try to showboat and impress others into liking them. Needy people will often play status games, in the hopes of persuading others that yes, Corporal Clingy is actually cool and totally not posing at all. They try to fill the emptiness they feel inside with the esteem of others… and yet it will never be enough. They will forever feel insecure because they have externalized their locus of control; they have put their self-worth in the hands of others and thus now need to forever be concerned with how others see them.

Want Vs. Need

Recognizing needy behavior in yourself can be difficult; it takes self-awareness and a willingness to be brutally honest with yourself and to try to look at your behavior as a disinterested third party. Part of the problem is that it’s easy to confuse (or rationalize) being needy for simple desire. When you’re in the throes of feeling desperate for a relationship with someone, anyoneyou may feel down to the depths of your sooooooul that you need someone, that you don’t want to live on this world alone anymore…

Except that’s not really need. That’s a want.

Cold hard truth time: a relationship isn’t something you need. Not to say that they aren’t important… but you will survive without one. You may be lonely. You may crave affection, love, sex, even just simple companionship. But you won’t die of it. The word “need” implies that you are somehow incomplete, less than others because you are single and that you’re trying to find someone to fit into that gap, and improve your life for you.

Not only is this an abdication of responsibility on your part, but you’re asking somebody else to shoulder the burden of maintaining your self-esteem as well as their own. It’s childish behavior and one that causes people to instinctively veer away.

Yes, your life may well be better with a relationship. By that same token, I’m pretty sure my life would be greatly improved by a tricked out Audi R8 and winning the Powerball. You don’t need that relationship, you’re just letting your desire overpower everything else – including your rational sense of proportion – and it’s throwing you off balance.

Also, it’s ruining the knees of your pants.

Finding The Balance

If you want to eliminate neediness from your life, you need to find your equilibrium again. Balance is one of the most important aspects in life; the person who is so needy that he craves constant validation from other people is bad, but the other extreme – becoming so self-absorbed that you become a virtual sociopath -is equally as unattractive. It’s one thing to want approval from the important people in your life – family, close friends, romantic partners. It’s another entirely when you’re craving it from people you barely know or who ultimately have minimal contact in your life.

Correcting self-esteem issues can be difficult and it can take time. Much of it requires a great deal of conscious effort; many self-esteem problems spring from negative thought patterns based off of mistaken beliefs and misinformation that we never stop to examine critically. We tend to assume our feelings are facts – “I feel bad, therefore I must be a loser” or work from mistaken attribution – “She likes him because he’s rich/tall/alpha; she doesn’t like me because I’m not rich/tall/alpha”.

We become addicted to external validation and the feedback that it gives us: pretty girl tells us we’re a cool guy, we feel better, we want more approval from pretty girl, etc. We get stuck in these constant loops of seeking feedback while reinforcing these negative feedback loops that torpedo our self esteem and self-worth and leave us unable to gauge our own value accurately.

Learning to break the feedback loops means learning to cultivate greater self-awareness and perspective, a willingness to examine ourselves, our motivations and our thought-processes critically and dispassionately. It means being able to examine those negative thought processes – the ones that say “if I don’t do X I’m a loser” or “I have to have Y to get women to like me”, the tendency to let confirmation bias highlight all the negatives in our lives and ignore the positives.

Becoming more aware of these thoughts is the first step; the next is to reframe them and adjust them. It’s difficult at first; it can feel awkward and cheesy to stop and actually focus on positive aspects of yourself or to give yourself permission to try something and fuck up. We all like to joke about the woo-woo newage therapy of repeating affirmations… they work. Just as the negative thought patterns and feedback loops are a habit, so too is positivity. Much of raising your self-esteem is carving new grooves in your brain, allowing yourself to think and believe better of yourself.

The more you can break your need for external validation and learn to validate yourself, the less needy behavior you will exhibit… and the better your results will be.



  1. and is immediately followed up by the Lover’s Day of Holy Obligation – an equally shitty time to be single []

  • Here I go again, but…. if you are a needy, insecure person, who no one really wants to associate with (platonic or romantic), thus causing you to be MORE needy… then wouldn't being brutal and honest with yourself result in coming to the conclusion that you ARE a loser?

    Ever since I was a little kid, people haven't liked me. I have never, ever been able to figure out why. In my teenage years, I chalked it up to "small town mentality" and "nobody GETS me, man." But reaching adulthood and realizing people STILL don't like me has sent me into a spiral of desperately seeking answers, thus turning me into a needier, even less likable version of myself. The only time I have succeeded in getting people to like me is when I really, really, really sought validation. As in, completely changed my behavior and personality to be what people wanted. It's exhausting, and I can't keep it up for long, so I quickly revert back to the unlikeable, needy Me.

    Given my experience, it is extremely confusing to be told to "focus on the positive" and "not care about what others think." I drive people away with neediness, but the need for validation has also been the only way I've been able to achieve friendships. And how can a person possibly think positively of themselves if they are never able to make friends/get dates, even before the desperation and neediness kicks in? What if a person IS just fundamentally unsociable, and external validation is the only way they can adjust their personality to something more suitable?

    … Because I'm also a giant pain in the ass, I also quibble that being social IS a need. You can survive without a romantic relationship, certainly, but a lack of ANY social relationships will lead to depression and, left untreated, suicide. Social contact and relationships are a human need; we are social creatures, we do not do well in isolation or loneliness.

    • enail

      Could I ask what sort of changes you've made those times when you've changed yourself to get people to like you? B/c it could be that when you do this complete personality overhaul, there's one or two things that are different in your behavior that are actually the things that make the difference in whether or not you can make friends, rather than just having a whole new personality. If you can figure out what those things are, maybe you could incorporate them more naturally into how you act, while still being true to your 'real self'.

      • I don't talk. That's probably the biggest one. I smile constantly and laugh at everything, even if I don't find it funny. I nod even when I don't agree. If I talk, I never volunteer anything about myself, and make the conversation entirely about the other person. Those are the times people seem to like me best and initiate a friendship/relationship.

        • enail

          What strikes me is that those are mostly behaviors that show the other person that YOU like THEM. Maybe that's a sign that when you're being more natural, you come off as a little hostile or uninterested in the other person?

          What if you tried smiling, laughing and focusing a little more on the other person, but still participating yourself (say 60% on them, 40% on you) People like to know you're enjoying their company, and smiling and social laughing is an important way of showing that, even if the joke isn't fall-on-the-floor funny. You don't have to laugh like it's fall-on-the-floor funny if it isn't, but responding to a joking comment with a deadpan face makes it feel like you think they're an idiot, while a little chuckle shows them that you like them enough to play along.

          If you're trying to make friends with people that you don't actually find funny, though, you might still be trying to make friends with the wrong people. If their sense of humor falls flat with you, yours will likely fall flat with them. And even if you need some practice showing genuine enthusiasm, you want to be trying to talk to people that you can feel some enthusiasm for.

          • Well I think when I'm natural, I'm a talker…. I'm like my mother and my grandmother in that way. I try to tell myself to shut up, but it is so hard to read when I should shut up and when I should keep talking. If I hang out with talkative people, then I feel I have to fight to be heard, which probably increases the look of hostility, but if I'm around shy people then I talk too much and start feeling ashamed and resentful that they aren't making conversation.

            I think it's also that I don't talk about topics like a normal person. I am awful at small talk, just awful, because I find it confusing and stupid. But if we're talking about a topic I enjoy, then I get really passionate and energized, which I think freaks people out.

            So overall, maybe I'm just f*cked, haha. Either be myself and be unlikeable, or be a manikin and be liked. Thank you for the response, I appreciate talking about these sorts of things.

          • enail

            I think there's probably a balance you can find. It's okay to get super-enthusiastic when you know people really well and know they're comfortable having a conversation in a tangle of people talking over each other b/c they're just so excited. But, especially with people you don't know that well, you have to moderate yourself a bit to let people feel like you are interested in what they're saying too. It helps to talk to people that you actually ARE interested in what they're saying.

            It might also help to remember that, in a way, small talk is kind of like practice talk or the tutorial level in a game. It's on topics that everyone is comfortable with and no one feels so enthusiastic about that it's hard keep from talking over people, so it's a good way to figure out how conversation works with that particular person. It takes practice to get good at moving the conversation from small talk to more interesting topics, but it can be done.

            If you have trouble figuring out when to jump in and land up talking over someone, a "sorry, you go ahead" goes a long way.

          • Tosca

            Ah, a fellow nerd ranter! Hello! 😀

            I've had people I barely know get scared off by my intensity before. I now only bring that side out if I really know you, OR if I know you are a fellow nerdy type. My brother and I can get really loud when we get together (2 nerd ranters in the same family! It's a wonder my mom didn't go bananas!)

            About Small Talk: it's a social ritual skill that you must learn. It IS confusing and stupid! I still feel awkward and stilted whenever I engage in it, but I was fortunate to have a crash course in my 20s: I worked at a string of offices with a bunch of older people who I SWEAR did NOTHING but Small Talk most of the time,

            But the thing about Small Talk is that no one is really listening! They will only remember if you actually answered with a reasonably friendly face when they said "How are you!" or "That's some weather we're having!" You can even just smile and nod. I usually just say "Good!" or "Yeah!" in a bright voice and go on my way. The only thing that'll get a bad reaction is stony silence/blatant ignore.

            The essence of the words don't mean much, so you don't have to agonize "But I'm actually having a SHITTY day! How can I lie and say 'Fine how are you'? ARRG."

            It's not a real conversation; it's more a social touching-base behavior:
            "Hello fellow human! I am letting you know that I am friendly and acknowledging your existence!"
            "Why thank you, I also acknowledge yours! Our smiles also act as socially disarming mechanisms so we feel at ease!"
            "True that! Well, goodbye!"

          • Ha that reminds me of one of my anthropology professors from university. He's originally from India, and his first experience living outside the country was when he got into grad at the University of Michigan. He'd tell stories of how people would ask him how he was, and he'd actually tell them, only to have the people avoid him/make weird faces/act uncomfortable. This deeply confused him, since THEY asked HIM; didn't that mean they wanted to know??

            He speculated once that people who are drawn to anthropology (me, him, our other professors) are all weirdos who try to intellectualize culture because we just don'

          • Jess

            Think of small talk as the human equivalent of dogs sniffing butts. It's probably not the most dignified habit, but it is part of the social contract of dogs and helps establish how the rest of their interaction will go.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            Cultural norms do vary a lot. I had the opposite problem in Hawaii. I grew up in major urban metro areas on the mainland, so I was used to giving quick small talk answers to questions and going about my business. On the islands everyone and I mean everyone wants to "talk story" for a bit. They want a real answer and to give you feedback and have a whole conversation. I'm not just talking about guys on the street. It felt like I was giving my life history to my dentist, every checkout clerk, the guy making my sandwich. . .pretty much anyone I had to interact with expected a five to ten minute conversation about what was going on in our lives. It took quite a bit of getting used to because I tend to be a fairly private person.

          • Anonyleast

            As a primer to this, if you really feel uncomfortable, then when you are actually having a bad day, put a positive spin on it.

            "How are you?"
            "Things are looking up." <- not a lie, if your day is already shitty, then it will probably get better.

            You're being honest that your day wasn't that good, but you're staying with the social rule of positive non-answer for small-talk.

          • ArsAutomatica

            Tosca, that mock exchange at the end is priceless :-D!

          • eselle28

            I'm curious, when you get into topics that you enjoy, do you stop to ask about the other person's thoughts on the topic? Or is the conversation more you talking about your own experiences and opinions? The "fight to be heard" part is what makes me wonder – no one likes being drowned out, but in good conversations, there's usually as much pleasure to be had in listening as in talking.

            I'm with enail and suspect that there may be a few tweaks you can make when you talk that don't fundamentally misrepresent your personality, but that do smooth interpersonal reactions a bit.

          • I think it's that very few people HAVE any opinions on the topics I find interesting. When I talk about certain things, keeping the conversation going seems to fall onto me, since no one seems to offer opinions or really care to talk about it. A few weeks ago I enthusiastically started talking about how fascinating I thought it was that non-Western countries had started to adopt Western mental diseases that never existed in their culture before, like anorexia. The response was largely "….. Kay."
            The fight to be heard is when my friends DO have something to say on a topic, I really struggle to even finish a sentence before someone interrupts. I suspect they interrupt because what I'm saying isn't fun or interesting except to me…. which I guess is fair, but that calls back into question the idea that I am fundamentally broken socially, in that no one has any interest in what I have to say.

          • eselle28

            So what do your friends talk about when you're not steering the conversation, or when there are a few of them together?

            I guess I'm going to say that I'm frequently stuck in conversations that sound like the one you just described, and when I back off and let the others pick the topics, the conversation drifts towards cooking and crafts or local sports or hunting and my part in it is attempting to nod and ask follow up questions and appear engaged.

            But I don't consider these people my friends. Some of them are "old friends" who I can respect for what they brought to my life in the past, while others are friendly acquaintences. Do you think it's possible you just need to go looking for a different group of people, who you respect a bit more intellectually and who share more interests with you?

          • Juuuuuulia

            I think the other advice is helpful, but I also notice that you framed it as "how fascinating [you] thought it was that non-Western countries had started to adopt Western mental diseases that never existed in their culture before, like anorexia." As opposed to "Hey, did YOU notice how anorexia's a thing in Asia now?" Some people are more sensitive to framing than others and find it hard to participate if a topic is framed in a closed-off way.

            That gets worse in other media! I got a text the other day saying "That drink you were talking about was [this]." And it wasn't. But the message was phrased in a way that wasn't really asking for my feedback, so I was really tempted to not even respond at all. If it had said something like "Is [this] the drink you were talking about?" I would have gladly had a nice conversation.

            Something to keep in mind. 🙂

          • enail

            I read an interesting book on that topic a while ago, and know many people who would enjoy a conversation on that subject with some good give-and-take. I don't think the subjects you're interested in make you inherently unsuitable socially, but it sounds like you're trying them out with the wrong people – part of conversational skill involves testing the waters to find a suitable topic that both parties can be participate in.

          • Ghost

            I think testing the waters is particularly necessary when you're talking about uncomfortable and potentially painful subjects like *eating disorders*. o_o;

          • Delafina

            Yeah, that's a potentially sensitive topic, and it's possible that that "….ok" was actually someone who was offended or hurt by the topic and was just trying to quietly get the conversation back to a different subject.

          • olau76

            Hmmmm. Do you hang out with academics? I can think of many who would find that topic endlessly fascinating.

          • tuppence

            Oh, this sounds familiar. I know that a lot of the topics I find interesting are things that my friends don't know so much about, but usually we can bounce off on a few tangents and we'll find some kind of common ground to talk about. One of my best friends is really, really into magical realism, and I know next to nothing about it, but I do love political history, and we kind of meet in the middle and have long rambling conversations about Latin American cultural history. I know that when I try and talk to him about some stuff I like, he tunes out really quickly because he doesn't know much about it at all. That felt kind of hurtful to me for quite a while because it seemed like he didn't care what I had to say, and we were basically having two different conversations.

            Can you mentally reframe their interruptions as an attempt to find common ground that you both enjoy, and where you both have useful things to add, rather than just that what you like isn't fun? For a while, it feels like that's trial and error. But then you find things you both find interesting and it works. Topic changes are just evidence that there is more than one person in the conversation, and if you're not interested in the topic you're both allowed to have a go at steering it.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            So what sort of things do you find interesting?

          • Akai

            I have this problem sometimes too; I imagine it's a common geek thing. And sometimes, it means I don't talk about the things I find the most interesting. It sucks, but trying to get people to talk about things they don't care about is a dead-end to no good outcomes. All I can advise you to do is talk about what the group wants to talk about, even if it's not your pet subjects. It may mean you do more listening than talking, especially if they want to talk about things you don't know (goodness knows I spend a lot of time listening to my opera singer friends without being able to contribute much), but everyone likes a good listener.

          • LeeEsq

            The problem with geeks when they talk about their favorite topic isn't so much the topic or the passion but that geeks have a tendency to make speeches and rants and ignore other people when talking about their areas of interest. Pace yourself, give others room to respond, and see if they are actually interested in what they are saying.

          • Focusing on small talk is a category error. If you're a talker to the point where it's getting in your way, there are two skills you need to practice: asking questions, and listening.

            Asking good questions isn't easy. Some questions appear to be about the other person, but are really about you. Instead, you want to learn how to ask questions that let the other person show off their most interesting, best self.

            Listening is a signal that you actually care what the other person has to say. If you're spending your whole listening time waiting until it's your turn to talk, or secretly thinking about how much you don't care about the topic at hand, people can tell, and most people don't like it.

            Your description of "People don't want to pick up on the things I talk about, but when they do, they don't let me get a word in edgewise" says to me that you have problems with both these skills. Your friends may believe that you're more interested in yourself than you are in them. No one wants to have to listen to someone who thinks he's super interesting, but is only interested in other people as far as they conform to his ideas of interesting.

            Everything you've posted so far says to me that you don't actually like talking to your friends that much. This may also be a part of the problem.

            This isn't meant as a judgment on you. The problem you have is a common problem for smart, interesting people! But as I see it you have two choices. You can change your circumstances, to find friends who you can listen to with genuine enjoyment and respect – or you can start to practice your listening and questioning skills in the context you have.

            I hope this is helpful, not hurtful. It's meant to be.

          • Ajax

            I'm a nerdy extrovert who learned how to be sociable through a ton of trial and error- with lots of the latter! I think @kleenestar makes some excellent points. At the end of the day, the best way to have people like you is to like other people. If you are suppressing thinly veiled contempt for your conversational partner, they will probably sense it at some level.

            I know it may seem difficult to make yourself like someone or interested in what they are saying. But if you crave social interactions, it's a necessary sacrifice.

            Note that I am NOT saying that you should transform yourself or change your own opinions to make yourself fit it in. You don't need a personality transplant to express polite interest in other people. Instead, think of conversation as a skill that you can improve through hard work and patience. And while it may be difficult to develop that skill to the highest levels (say, a Clinton), becoming a half-decent conversationalist is very achievable.

    • I completely understand where you're coming from. I used to be just like that, where I was constantly insecure and seeking validation. The bright side is — you are aware of it, and that's the first step. I know it's harder said than done when it comes to advice like "just stop caring so much." But in reality, it works. Do what makes you happy, make jokes that people don't laugh at, be weird. The ironic thing is, as soon as you stop giving a shit, and start taking pleasure in your own company, people will gravitate towards you.

      If you look at it from other people's perspective, would you want a friend that was constantly seeking validation from you? Wouldn't it be exhausting having to constantly reassure another person of their value? Yes, friends are there for support and such, but they are also there to enjoy, and nothing is less enjoyable than constantly feeling like every interaction you have with a person can make or break their fragile ego.

      I think the key here is being choosy who you seek validation from. For example, if you're clearly seeking validation from every social group you encounter, that is very noticeable and many people will be turned off by it, but if you establish a relationship first, get close to a person (not necessarily romantically), being receptive to their opinions and thoughts while at the same time not giving a monkey's bottom about anyone else's, creates a feeling of exclusivity or scarcity. I am not sure if I am making any sense, I just finished a bottle of wine…

      Basically, what I'm trying to say is: try putting yourself in the other person's shoes. People like feeling special. If you are clearly pandering to every Jack and Mary that you meet, It is VERY noticeable, but if you meet a kindred spirit, a guy or a girl, that you just click with, it's important that you make them feel like they are special and not just like every other person you are trying to impress.

      How would you feel if you were in a bar, and you watched a guy hit on like 10 girls and then come over to you and try to hit on you? Wouldn't you feel like just a number? It's important to make *people* (men and women) feel like they are more. That's how you make friends.

      P.S. I really hope this made sense, because I'm literally typing on automatic pilot by now. But, check it out, doesn't drunk Yeva have still impeccable grammar and spelling! Boom!

      • Oo no I don't want validation from everyone. If I get the sense that someone isn't going to "get" me, I don't bother interacting with them beyond the social necessary amount, and I could care less if they liked me.

        I guess I'm weird, because I DON'T mind friendships in which my friend needs constant validation or reassurance. Maybe it's because it makes me feel closer to them, it feels more significant? Maybe because it distracts me from my own validation pursuit? Maybe because I love discussing personal emotions and psychologies?

        I suspect that the day I stop caring about what other people think is the day I become a hermit. I think if I ever rid myself of the need for validation, the day I stopped being needy, would be the day I locked myself up in my house and shut out the world. I wish Dr. Nerdlove had elaborated on how NOT to go the sociopath extreme, because being an emotionless sociopath is the only way I imagine not caring about what other people think.

        Anyway, you did just fine on a bottle of wine. Thank you for the reply.

        • eselle28

          But don't you enjoy things about your friends other than validation? Granted, that's something I think most of us like in some degree, but even without it there are friends who I would still value because I enjoy one person's sense of humor, and like the same books as another and want to hear her opinions on them, and appreciate another's imagination and creativity.

          • Sure but I have trouble sustaining the conversation beyond a certain point. "Man this book was great!" "Yeah I really loved it!" *Awkward silence* If I start going on about why I like it, I end up dominating the conversation, even when I try to back off, because people rarely have something to say beyond "Yeah I liked it."

            Example: I just read JK Rowling's new book. I have a friend who really liked Harry Potter, so I say "Hey you should read this new book!" "Yeah? Did you like it?" "Yeah! I loved the way she writes media satire, and that seems to be a central part of the new book." "Oh. Cool." At this point in the conversation, I can either a) change the topic (so the situation will just repeat) b) keep rambling about things I like about it or c) sit quietly til THEY come up with something.

            I do appreciate different things in different people, but it seems impossible to parlay that into conversation. When people seek validation, that's a great way for me to demonstrate and talk about all the things I like about them that I can't in a "normal" conversation.

          • Anonymoose47

            Those conversations can't be sustained. That kind of person is just socializing to socialize and having read the same book is something to lightly socialize about. Usually just give it the extra shot to see if they want to talk about anything about it, if not, then awkward silence and groping around for something else isn't a bad thing.

          • Mel_

            This really makes it sound to me like you're just not around people who have the same interests you do. I know *tons* of people who could talk for hours about exactly what they love about J.K. Rowling's work, or other authors. Because I'm a writer and I love books, I hang out with other writers and bookish people, so we all have lots to say on the topics we're passionate about. Maybe you need to seek out social groups that revolve around your interests (e.g., in this particular case, book clubs, literary meet-ups, coffee shops with regular readings, etc.).

          • Mike

            In your example, I used to be (c) every time. But that's not fair to them. It's not a conversation, really, if all you do is respond to things they say. You have to carry your part, as they should carry their part… and vice versa. It's multiplayer game, not single player. 😉

            I'd recommend choice (b), though. Just do it in a way that doesn't monopolize the conversation. Tell them something you liked or about a certain part and then ask what they thought about it. Make them engage in the conversation. If they then start leading the conversation for a bit, great! If not, keep talking (and engaging) until you run out of things to say or you naturally change the conversation.

          • eselle28

            Hmm. I can see that being a problem. I think one method you might use is to try to insert more questions into that conversation. Your friend may appreciate Rowling for different reasons, and some people need an invitation to volunteer their thoughts. If it works right, you end up with a conversation where you can bounce back and forth a bit, showing interest in what the other person has to say, while still having time expressing yourself.

            Or, if you got the sense your friend was tired of talking about Harry Potter, perhaps you could ask if they'd read anything similar lately they might like to recommend.

            That last bit makes sense, and I do understand how that would be rewarding. But you do need to actually get to know the person a bit before you can express what you like about them, or for them to be able to take your assessments seriously enough to find them comforting. A relationship that was purely about exchanging validation seems like it would be a bit unbalanced.

          • Jess

            Well, in that case, your friend hasn't read the book, and so you are in a conversational dynamic where you have all the information and you are leaving your friend with no place to go because they don't have the information they need to continue the conversation (they haven't read the book). When you are talking with someone who can't respond because they don't have the information they need to respond, it's not a surprise that things fizzle.

            In this case, yeah, you do need to change conversations because the other person is thinking. "That sounds interesting, but I haven't read it, so I really can't say."

            If I were you, I'd put the ball in their court with a question that branches off that subject but back into territory where your conversation partner feels confident that they have something to contribute. "What about you? Read anything interesting lately?"

            And then if you get a "No, not really,"

            You take it to a vague conversation jumping board that is an invitation to participate with you. "Nothing interesting out there, or have you been busy?"

            That way they have some leading questions. "I've been busy." "What have you been up to?"

            If at this point, you've thrown out some good conversation bait and you still aren't getting anywhere, then it is time for a nice, "Well, nice talking to you.' Because you're not responsible if you are providing opportunity and they don't want to engage. It's better to find someone who does.

            As far as getting "talked over". I have a really hard time with this. For those of us who are seeking validation through conversation, we feel like we need to be "in" the conversation more than we actually should be. There's nothing wrong with listening to the crowd, and adding in your, "Man, that sounds amazing," or "Dude, that sucks, glad I'm not you." every once in a while.

            My personal problem is that I tend to think everything I have to say is gold, so I MUST put it on the table. It's been hard for me to let go and just go with the conversation and allow it to drift away from points I found interesting without pulling everyone backward in the conversation or letting it go off on tangents without circling my wagons back around to the topic I felt I had a handle on.

            It's hard to let go of that control, but it's essential to be a good conversationalist. I'm still working on not interrupting.

          • Ah, but perhaps we've hit on a point. I actually DO make a point of making conversations almost entirely questions from my side. and people do respond to that readily enough…. but they never ask questions back.

            For example, in an earlier conversation today, I initiated the conversation with a question about the girl's boyfriend. The ENTIRE conversation was her answering my questions. I made a few remarks ABOUT her ("Oh yeah I know you love traveling") but other than that, it was nothing but questions from my side. I'm not sure if she enjoyed the conversation, but I left feeling kind of drained and disappointed, because…. well, she didn't care to ask me any.

            And that's the thing I keep running into, people don't seem to care at all about having me in the conversation, I am just either Annoying or The Question Asker. I guess I don't really see the point of being the latter…. maybe it might make people like me more, but they don't really like ME because they don't know me. If I never speak up, or I ask only questions, I may be a better conversationalist, but I have created a dynamic in which I don't even need to be present. You can replace me with someone else, or maybe even a tape recorder, and it'd be just as meaningful.

            Maybe it's that I want my conversations and friendships to always have meaning, to always be about connection and deep exchanges. But as my mom says, most people are on this earth to just take it as easy as possible… they want things easy, they want things superficial, and they want things fun.

            I don't think that everything I say is interesting or valuable or must be said. But if my role is to JUST ask questions, or to sit there in silence…. why bother being there at all?

          • eselle28

            So, your friends sound pretty awful. Boring, not very thoughtful or well-read, indifferent to your feelings, self-absorbed.

            That doesn't mean they actually are awful, but I'm getting the feeling that you don't like them much more than they like you. Can you meet some new people? Small talk tends to be involved in that, but I suspect you'll find more interesting conversations with other people.

          • At this point, I probably don't like them much, no. Like you said, not because they're awful people…. but I admit there's a big ol' well of resentment on my side from feeling as if I am constantly catering to them, in terms of conversation, behavior, etc. It's like I've tried so hard to get them to like me, and yet they still don't, that I both resent them trying to "change" me AND I rebel by not really liking them.

            I dunno. I've met a lot of people over the course of my life, and I've had this same problem with 99.9% of them. I try *so hard* to not let it get this way, but at this point I think I HAVE grown misanthropic because I can never seem to do anything right.

            I come to blogs like this trying to gleam some insight, but I think I just leave more confused. Dr. NL says to be confident and positive about who you are… but then he talks just as often about all the things about you that need to change, because holy cow, are you needy/annoying/creepy, whatever. I'm probably just not smart enough to understand the subtle gray area between the two, and it leaves me really confused.

          • eselle28

            I'm curious: where are you meeting your friends? What sorts of things interest them? Because at least to me, most of the things you've brought up as topics of discussion sound pretty interesting. I'll admit that I'm not willing to talk about serious things all the time, but it sounds like you know how to ask people about what's going on in their lives. Your aversion to small talk makes it harder to meet people, but from what you've said about yourself, there should be people out there who have fairly compatible interests – both in terms of subject matter and your preference for talking about it analytically.

            Is it maybe that you're mostly meeting people at work, or some non-nerd-friendly environment?

          • Max

            "I actually DO make a point of making conversations almost entirely questions from my side. and people do respond to that readily enough…. but they never ask questions back. "


          • eselle28

            To be fair, that's not a very enjoyable conversation, at least not if that's always how talking to that person goes.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Ohh, err. Yeah, this person does sound pretty annoying. Again, I'd say don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to? If you find you're only asking stuff because you feel like you need to keep the conversation going because otherwise this person Won't Like You, then it's definitely going to feel like a lot of work.

            The thing to remember is people like that won't ask YOU questions they don't want to know the answer to, so they won't realize that YOU'RE doing it. But they might be able to sense that you're feeling resentful or hostile and they won't know why. Or they'll feel like you're trying really hard for something, but they also don't know what. So they'll natural draw away from you even more.

            I think at this point it would help to try and assemble a toolbox of ways to show people you like them that you ARE comfortable with. Maybe you can bake them pies and drop by once in a while to drop it off. Ask like 2-3 questions about the boyfriend that you're mildly curious about and cut short the interaction? Or send cards! Or send emails where you can ramble a bit and if they don't respond, it's no big deal? Or some sort of other socially acceptable way to express friendship that doesn't require you to do a ton of work and feel horrible afterwards? Something you like doing anyway?

          • Juuuuuulia

            "What did you think about Snape?"
            "What did you think of Griffyndor randomly winning the House Cup at the end?"
            "Do you think the snitch is kinda stupid?"
            "Did you expect [some plotline] to end [this way]?"
            "Did you think [some character] was really annoying?!"
            "What do you think was the point of [some plotline]?"
            "Who was your favorite character? Why do you like him?"

            ^ Questions that *you* might have thought of based on what *you* thought of the book but that are still engaging to the other person. They might have answers but not know they do! =P

          • Max

            Don't talk about the things you like. Ask her what she liked or likes. You don't have to sit quietly. Ask questions.

          • SarahGryph

            I'm not sure if this will help, but I'm reminded of how my mom and I talk about our jobs. She's an electrical engineer and I've spent most of my working life in retail management. Sooo…there are plenty of topics she brings up that I can't follow without explaination and also plenty of things I take as "obvious" that leave her with a blank stare. All we do is try to share the conversation. We listen as best we can to what the other is saying, ask questions if confused…and if the other person is giving a blank stare we step back from the technical talk and try to get back to something we can touch base on. It's surprising how many connections you can make between retail and electrical engineering if you try. We both get to geek a little and we also both get to learn something about a different field; it's about balancing. I've found I can do that with random people as well; even if we don't both start on the same page, we can find some offshoot of the topic that we *can* both discuss.

      • Mike

        Couldn't agree more with this.

        Marty, I've been in your boat for a long, long time. One difference being that I *used* to be the "life of the party" way back in junior high. I was in a military family and I moved around a lot, and the very last move I made in high school… something psychological happened and I became a very reserved, shy, and unsocial person. I'm not going to get into what I think caused it or what the circumstances were, point is: it happened.

        That lasted for well over 10 years. I went through phases of trying to change who I was in order to make friends… to phases of just being a hermit because I felt that no one liked me… to phases of forcing myself to hang out with people even if I was just a wallflower. Honestly, things didn't change until I started seeing a therapist for depression and anxiety. The therapy itself didn't help me, but it did trigger me to start thinking differently.

        I started to be "okay" with who I was and what I was. I'm a nice guy. I'm a nerd. I'm 30 and I still play video games all the time. I'm a virgin and that doesn't matter. And… I'm not a very social creature by nature.

        That last one is what we have in common, it seems. We both (seem like we) aren't social, yet we want to be around others. However, in our minds we think that because we're quiet in social situations that people don't like us and don't want to be around us. There may well be some truth to that, but you can't let that affect your mood and self-worth.

        Well, I typed all this and I really don't know what the point I'm trying to make is. DNL talks about confidence all the time and even suggest that you "fake it till you make it" regarding confidence. The confidence is what I realized I was missing. I haven't changed who I am, but I've been much more social lately because I'm more confident. I used to always wait for people to come talk to me, but now I feel okay going up and starting a conversation with someone. (Well, with my friends… still not quite okay with starting conversations with strangers.)

        This process has been long for me. I hit rock bottom around January of this year and that's when I decided I had to make changes in the way I think. 11 months later and I've come a long way, but I'm still not where I want to be. Nothing here will be an instant change… nothing anyone tells you will be the magic bullet that makes you happy. The only thing someone else can do is be the catalyst that gets you started down the road.

        • Tosca

          I just had a "click" when I read this! Maybe people confuse "confidence" with being the "life of the party"? Like if DNL advises a guy to get "confidence", now he thinks he's got to become this gregarious, smooth players who parties all night.

          But "confidence" just means being confident about who YOU are, even if that's an introverted nerd who plays games. To be ok with yourself, warts and all. Part of the reason I used to be terrified to talk to strangers was I really hated who I was and longed to be a different girl altogether (and assumed they too would hate me). Once I learned to really be ok with myself and ACCEPT who I was, poof, I got the confidence to approach people in social settings.

          • Anonymoose47

            The life of the party IS going to get more action, if you can pull it off

          • Tosca

            I won't argue with that! But most people, while they can fake a total personality change for a while, it's impossible to keep up long term. So all those friends and the girlfriend you might have attracted while playing "party guy" might decide to leave once your real personality comes out. And who can blame them? They thought you were someone else!

            It's harder for us, but not impossible. One thing that helps is to choose your venue wisely. I had a short period of a few months where I went out clubbing and "played" at being a fun, extroverted gal to make new friends. But man was that exhausting, plus none of the people and I clicked. Sure, when everybody was drunk we were all best friends, but when the party was over, they were nowhere to be found. And they only liked "fun" Tosca. It was overall an empty experience. I couldn't even IMAGINE trying to actually find LOVE there. Brr.

            Contrast that to the game night I went to via I could actually be MYSELF! And these people were a lot friendlier and easier for me to get to know, because we were all more alike! I've made 3 friends already, that I have gotten to know outside the game nights. That's only after a few weeks, whereas the clubbing took MONTHS and even still most of the friends were more friends with my other friend.

          • Mike

            Re: faking a personality change.

            Trying to be someone you aren't is probably the worst advice anyone can give you. Telling you to *change* who you are is pretty close as well. And yes, not only is it bad advice but it is impossible to pull it off long term. You'll either be exposed as a fake or you'll burn yourself out trying to keep the act. In either case, you won't be happy in the long run.

            You need to love who YOU are, not what you think people want you to be. That's probably the first step to building confidence.

            If people don't like YOU when you're being you… then they're just not the people you should be worried about.

          • Tosca

            The hard part is actually CONVINCING the insecure person of this, because the unspoken question is "What if no one ever likes the real me? Isn't it better to have fake friends than none?"

            Which leads into another point that I forgot to mention in my first post about how I overcame insecurity: letting go of the extreme narcissism of insecurity. When you are very insecure, you are focused SO MUCH on yourself, and ONLY yourself. It's in a bad way, but still. If you think about it, "no one will EVER like me" is a very narcissistic statement. So, you are so UNIQUELY unlovable, that, out of the BILLIONS of people on this planet, NOT ONE would ever like you?

            It's like the Special Snowflake of Misery mentality. Really getting that I am NOT so unique in my misery, that others have insecurities too that are no less poignant than my own, brought me a long way. Back in the bad old days I would dismiss other people's pain; it couldn't possibly compare to MINE! That attitude drives people away. Friends are supposed to have empathy, not be obsessed with their own unhappiness.

          • Mike

            I agree. I still struggle with having empathy instead of comparing stories. A friend might tell me how their day sucked and then I'd explain how my day sucked, too. That's not what they're looking for when they told me about their day.

          • Anonymoose47

            You're missing the "if I don't like the real me, why would anyone else?" part.

          • Tosca

            Yeah that one's a little harder to deal with. But trying new things, getting out there and doing things that make you feel good can, in time, go a long way to giving you some sense of peace with yourself.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I think the answer to that question is "because they are different people who are not you." =P

            Also, if you don't like the real you, you can work on changing the parts of you that you don't like for real. Because if you present a fake you to other people, the real you is still going to know that that's a fake and still not like the real you.

          • Max

            Yup. All those "life-of-the-party" guys and gals totally have insecurites, fears, and issues too. It helps to remember that.

          • Anonymoose47

            I'd be cool with having theirs instead. Grass is greener etc

          • Juuuuuulia

            One day, they will invent brain downloading! And we will look upon the contents of people's brains and they will be extravagantly messy.

          • eselle28

            And on that day, I will run off to the woods and become a hermit.

            Cause no one needs to know about my weirdest sexual fantasies, or how much time I spend wondering where I left my cellphone.

          • Mike

            It's actually pretty refreshing when you happen upon a friend that you're strangely comfortable sharing your weirdest sexual fantasies with. 😛

            I have one of those, and it didn't become "weird" or anything.

          • eselle28

            You know, that would be really nice. I think the only people I've been able to talk about the more extreme things with in detail have been people I'd had or was having sex with, and even then it was a little tricky. Maybe one of these days I'll have a friend who's comfortable being that open!

            That being said? A friend? Sure, that could work. My boss? My mom? The teenager at the coffee shop who I'm pretty sure was looking down my dress this morning? The elderly woman next door who I quarrel with about parking? I'd rather keep my brain downloads – sexual or not – off limits to them.

          • Anonymoose47

            Weird sexual fantasies are the best kind.

          • eselle28

            Often. Not always. I do know a couple of very social, well-liked men who have trouble translating that into romantic success.

            But that's kind of beside the point. It's not a competition where the guy who's the best at everything is a million times happier than everyone else. Even if you're not the life of the party, there are ways to improve your life so that it's pretty damn good.

          • enail

            But in a lot of cases, doesn't non-life-of-the-party person pretty much = introvert? In which case, they'd often probably be happier having fewer but longer-lasting/more intimate relationships/sexual partners rather than lots of fairly shallow/short-term encounters.

            Being a successful social butterfly/player is only a better experience than being socially successful in other ways if that's actually the kind of interaction you enjoy. Or if the bragging rights are what you're interested in, I guess.

        • FormerlyShyGuy

          "Nothing here will be an instant change… nothing anyone tells you will be the magic bullet that makes you happy."

          Totally agree with this, you may have a lot of improving to do to achieve your goals, not matter what they are personal, physical, or professionally. If your goal is to run a marathon for example you may get disheartened real quick if you go out an try to run 26.2 mile right away. On the other hand this goal can be worked at/around in all kinds of smaller ways, smaller runs, drinking more water, getting the right amount of sleep etc etc. It may take you awhile to get to that 26.2 mark but all the training and other changes will have benefits of their own.

      • Tiny Carl

        I think it can often be unhelpful to advise people to "just stop caring," and as well-meant as it is, telling someone "as soon as you stop trying to make people like you, people will start to like you" is problematic. If nothing else, it's a faith-based statement. There are no actual guarantees that things pan out that way.

        Even in a situation where the person kinda-sorta believes that "if I could just stop caring, it might be better", I don't believe you can choose to stop caring, any more than you can choose to stop enjoying swing dancing or choose to stop liking cheese.

        My angle has always been to try to match your needs as a "friend applicant" to the nature and capability of your prospective friends. When you find one who gets you and can supply what you need, hold on to them, and when you find a friend isn't compatible with you, start moving away and looking for a better one. No denying, though, that this can be a pretty lonely experience when most of the people fall into the "yeah, not really meeting my needs" category.

        • Tosca

          It's the difference between "stop caring (about the ones who are bad for you or hurt you)" and sliding right into wholesale misanthropy. I think a lot of people hear "stop caring" and take it all the way to Hatetown*. Like, fine, I DON'T care, SCREW all y'all. Then they wonder why people still don't like them. 😉

          *or they develop that cold hatred that lends itself to creepy social Darwinism and wanting to "play" people to get what you want.

    • Tosca

      I was also terribly unpopular growing up. I was actually voted "most hated" kid in my grade one year. Guys used to dare each other to ask me out and try to humiliate me (I stopped falling for that one, though). I'm also naturally introverted and don't "get" a lot of what people do socially and emotionally. I live in my own head. Even now, I still have trouble really connecting with people and making friends.

      I used to be super insecure*, though. I had a particularly embarrassing period with a boy I dated in high school where my insecurity made me into someone I loathed. Of course, he dumped me. Now, I'm not insecure so much. This is what I did:

      -Really look, *realistically*, at my OWN desires. Being really insecure meant I yearned for attention from EVERYONE, even people who were not good friends. Even guys who were bad news. In fact, I put up with several abusive "friendships" because I was so needy that at least I had A friend, right?? Learning to actually say, "hey, do *I* want to hang out with this person, *really*?" has saved me a lot of scraping and begging. I've become picky about who I let into the friendship zone (whereas insecurity makes you take all comers!). I'm nice to everyone, but it's ok that I can't be BFFs with everyone.
      -Stop the misanthropy. It's easy, when you're unpopular and some people are jerks, to think everyone is. But you're only seeing an unfortunate few. Or you are in high school, the ultimate fishbowl, but it's a BIG world out there! People can sense if you hate people. Like Homer Simpson once said, "Why won't they let me in their crappy club for jerks?!" Nobody likes this person. I find PUA also an incarnation of this misanthropy, like "some women were mean to me, therefore real love is a sham and people are asshole with numbers". If you're hanging out at the bar scene or in a certain friend group and it's killing your soul and making you hate people, *get another scene*. That's why it's so important, as DNL says, to try different activities and meet different people. It wards against soul crushing misanthropy and makes you a much more attractive opportunity.
      -Stop having relationships in my own head. So often, I would build it up inside my head (unbeknownst to the poor person), and everytime they acted contrary to my "idea" of who they were, I'd declare people broken and disappointing. My own husband was often a victim of this early in our dating, and some days I can't really believe he put up with it. 😉 This is a form of pedestalizing.
      -realize that *I* was actually a crappy friend. Maybe it's because I grew up awkward and unpopular, so I didn't have the "training" other kids got, but damn it, I sucked at maintaining friendships. I'd forget birthdays, only call when I felt like it, retreat into myself, barely listen to them when we got together and had no empathy. I had to do a LOT of WORK in this area. I'm still doing it. It doesn't matter if I think holidays are commercial and real friends should just "know" I like them without me having to actually contact them or that I think their problems are all self inflicted and whyyyy do I have to listen to this. These social rituals are important and people do them for a reason. And friends need REAL empathy and understanding. It's like a plant; even a hardy cactus will die if you give it NO attention whatsoever.
      -Become ok with the fact that I just don't have THE charisma. I have a few friends, and my family, but I won't ever be swimming in peoples' love. I have this friend, she's like a sister to me and I love her, but she just has this certain je ne sais quoi! People ADORE her. They flock to her. I can't explain it. And no, she's not a "HB10". They don't flock to me, and they probably never will, but *that's ok*. (In fact, because I'm so introverted, I've come to realize that being Miss Popular Queen Bee would actually be my nightmare, even though I had that power fantasy growing up.)

      *my crippling insecurity was also fueled by my depression as well, especially during the teen years. But that's MY WORK to do. It's not fair to ask the world to deal with my hostility and clinginess and depression, and even if I thought it WAS, they WON'T and then I'll be more miserable.

      • Thank you!!! This was incredibly helpful and insightful, because I recognize a lot of that in myself. I DO think I'm an okay friend…. not amazing, but I really try to be empathetic and understanding. But I start building up some hardcore resentment after a while when it's not returned. Most of my friendships feel like very one-way streets; I only call them, I only give them gifts (I haven't gotten a birthday or Christmas gift from friends in 2 years), I always go to them, etc. Maybe it all evens out because I'm not as emotionally empathetic as I could be? Not sure, but most days I feel more like I'm an Empathy Doormat and an Empathy Mop (sucking up all the friendship.)

        Question about the having a relationship in your head: this one REALLY stuck with me. I don't build up an idea of who the person is, but I think I assume a stronger mutual friendship than is actually true (I'm way more into them than they are into me.) For example, I'll completely rearrange my schedule to see Friend A, and Friend A will then cancel with a possibly true/kinda lame excuse, and I will feel waves of rejection. My response, after this occurs 2 or 3 times over the entire course of the friendship, is to cut them off wholesale, because OBVIOUSLY they're not into me, Woe. Obviously this is a result of having too high of expectations and building up a False Relationship in my head….. but how do you STOP that? How do you lower your expectations without ending up in that begging/scrapping phase?

        • Tosca

          My husband will probably tell you that every month or so I go on a rant about how I just don't get people and why are my friendships so one-sided? This happens to me ALL THE TIME: " For example, I'll completely rearrange my schedule to see Friend A, and Friend A will then cancel with a possibly true/kinda lame excuse, "

          It's one of those social things I don't get. People are flakey. People say things they don't mean. But I don't think it's *personal*, because it happens often enough to others that I'm pretty sure it's just some social-dance thing I don't understand. Like, if I don't want to do something, or I just can't, I will SAY SO. But many people won't. Maybe they are afraid of being rude? Maybe they want to keep their options open? I dunno.

          But this is where my base introvert personality can help: if someone flakes on me more than twice, I'll just stop making plans. I'll also stop "chasing" them via text or Facebook. They know where I am, if they want to see me, the ball's in their court. And if I am making all this effort into the friendship, I'll just stop. Not cut them out, just ease up. Maybe they're going through a time. Maybe they have a lot on their plate. Maybe they don't really like me! Either way, I preserve my dignity and disengage.

          Decoupling rejection from that is important, though. One thing that helped me realize it's not (likely) personal* is that I used to do that to people too, especially when a depressive mood hit. So who knows why they flake? I don't have to agonize over it, though. I go on living my life.

          *even if it IS personal, and they really don't like you, why continue to chase them? They would not make a good friend to you! Who knows WHY they don't like you. There are so many other people who WILL like you it's not worth agonizing over. If the "most hated" kid can have people who like her, I'm pretty sure you can too. 🙂

          • Anonymoose47

            Don't forget people just not thinking too. Especially when it comes to their own free time.

          • Tosca

            Absolutely. I usually hate Dr. Phil, but he did say something once that always stuck with me:

            "You wouldn't care so much about what people think about you if you knew how little they did."

          • Haha I suppose that's it, nobody DOES like me, so I figure chasing people who don't like me is better than never socializing at all. It is another of those Social Dance things I don't understand…. I have a whole group of friends that, by the way they treat me and the things they say about me, HATE me. Or at least really really really don't like me. Yet they keep inviting me to things!

            How do you de-couple social interactions from rejection?

            I was voted Most Like Daria in high school. I still consider that a badge of honor….. Might possibly be part of the problem.

            PS: I get the impression Dr. Nerdlove wants me to shut up and hit the forum instead, so sorry if I don't reply anymore here!

          • Mike

            Forum? What forum? I don't see one… am I missing something?

            I don't want to judge your friends, but when you say "I have a whole group of friends that, by the way they treat me and the things they say about me, HATE me." that just screams toxic relationship. (Yes, you can have toxic *platonic* relationships, too.)

            I have to question how much of a "friend" they really are if all they do is reinforce your own belief that people don't like you.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Check it out! There is, indeed, a forum:

          • Mike

            Ugh, why is there no obvious link to this?? Or am I just blind?

            Thanks for sharing!

          • Juuuuuulia

            It got posted on facebook but not announced officially yet because very likely all the bugs.

          • Tosca

            OMG! Be right back.

          • Tosca

            There are two things going on here. First is, "Nobody DOES like me" sounds like total jerkbrain talk. I know because it's what mine says too. "Nobody likes you" is like in the top 3 of jerkbrain phrases for me (the other 2 being "You're a failure" and "You're a fraud".) 😀

            Jerkbrain talk is pervasive and relentless, but it is not true. NOBODY likes you? I have a hard time believing you. After all, I know I'm just on the internet and we don't know each other, but I like you.

            The other part is, are your friends really that toxic? That could just be your jerkbrain poisoning all your interactions with people. OR…

            you could have a really toxic friends. And they keep inviting you to things because you're filling the role of Buttmonkey and they like having you to kick around. If this is true, you need different friends! Toxic friends (and boy/girlfriends) love to convince you that this is what you deserve and that they are the best you can get, so you start believing the treatment is normal. It's how they get people to abuse.

          • Jess

            Yeah, I do this all the time too. I'm like you. I tend to keep close friends close, but I don't have many, and I've been working on my social skills with random acquaintances with work, but most of my own social schooling as been addressing my own behavior and asking if I'd want to hang around and talk with me. Then acknowledging that I'm only one half of a friend equation and I can't force people into my life. I'll be my best me and accessible. I'll send out, "Hey how are you, haven't heard from you in ages" emails or phone calls every once in a while to touch base, but if someone doesn't ever call me, why should I feel guilt for not pushing harder with them?

            It's a big world and people come and go.

            It's okay to let them go sometimes and invest in the people that seem interested in investing in you.

          • Mmarple26

            Ha! concerning the 'Friend A will then cancel with a possibly true/kinda lame excuse,' when I was in college I finally gathered up the courage (major introvert!) to invite some people over that I hung out with in my Japanese class. The one girl who I really thought would show up (very friendly, pretty and cheerleader-like) never showed and then came up with the excuse, 'I couldn't find my shoes'
            which made me feel reeeaall good about myself that I didn't even warrant a 'my grandmother died' or legimate reason for not showing. After we graduated of course I never heard from her again. sheesh, people.

        • Juuuuuulia

          I think also, before you go out of your way to do something for a certain friend, check to see how cool with it *you* are. "Hmm, if I change my schedule now, will I feel bad and rejected if Friend flakes on me?" If the answer is yes, then don't go out of your way for them. If the answer is "Nah, I'll do this other thing I wanted to do during that time," then do it! =)

          I have a friend who goes to me with even the tiniest of her problems and can't really be expected to handle any of my stuff (I've tried talking to her a few times and it didn't … work), but it's been that way for over ten years and I don't really mind helping. Meanwhile, I have other friends that … send me cards. And I always feel a bit uncomfortable because I'm not really a card-sending person. And it takes some work to convince myself that probably they just enjoy sending cards and don't necessarily expect cards back.

          • enail

            This is great advice! Everyone, listen to Juuuuuuuulia!

      • Delafina

        Sounds like having to work up from being the "most hated" kid in your high school (and INCIDENTALLY WTF WHAT KIND OF SCHOOL LETS KIDS VOTE ON SOMETHING LIKE THAT!?) has contributed to your not-inconsiderable wisdom, though. 🙂

        • Tosca

          Thanks. 🙂
          Let's just say, it wasn't a formal poll! The teachers didn't seem to give a rat's ass back in the 80s. Bullying was "kids' business".

          So glad that my son has a different experience.

    • Ted

      Marty, have you been to a therapist. I am very similar to you and was diagnosed with BPD. It is something to look into and I recommend reading the book I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me to see if that doesn’t stroke a chord with you.

    • Max

      "Because I'm also a giant pain in the ass"

      Well, there's your problem.

      I don't know you, but I don't think it's too much of a stretch to imagine that you talk and act like this in real life. And personally, I find people who do this annoying, and lots of other people do, too. There's nothing wrong with you, just the way you think about yourself. The only thing that that would make you a giant pain in the ass is referring to yourself as a giant pain in the ass.

      Like Doc said, its a cycle. You act overly-self-deprecating, people get annoyed, they act annoyed, you assume that there's something wrong with you, you act overly-self-deprecating, repeat. It's up to you to break this cycle. You need to think that you are cool, and if you can't, you need to figure out what you need to do to make yourself cool.

      • Okay this is something I've never understood…. if I am being a giant pain in the ass, shouldn't I admit I am being a giant pain in the ass? I thought being self-aware was a good quality. Why is annoying to own up to a behavior?

        I've always thought I was decent, but other people never have, and I have no idea why, which is why I try to own up to any behavior that would cause this. In order to make myself cool, I'd need to know what other people consider cool.

        • Trooper6

          1) Saying "I'm a giant pain in the ass" may or may not be a sign of self-awareness.
          2) Saying "I'm a giant pain in the ass" may or may not be a sign of owning up to behavior.

          Expansion on 1) There are people who say, "I'm just unattractive." And who think they are being self-aware, but they aren't. Because there are people out there in the world who find that person attractive. So that negative talk is not self-awareness but a person putting themselves down. Sometimes people put themselves down because they have terrible self-esteem. Sometimes people put themselves down because they are emotionally manipulative. But saying a negative thing about yourself is not always a sign of self-awareness.

          Expansion on 2) Saying I'm terrible may be self-awareness, but not be owning up to behavior. My mother gave me this advice when I was a young'un. She said, "If someone tells you they are an asshole, believe them and get away from them." Some people say, "I'm an asshole"–but they don't follow that up with, "I'm sorry about that, I won't do it again." or "I'm trying to change that through therapy, if you see me doing it call me out on it." Just saying "I'm an asshole," can easily mean, "I'm an asshole and I quite enjoy being an asshole and I don't intend to change it and I plan on treating you poorly and then blaming you for taking it."

          Neither 1 nor 2 are good qualities.

          From all of the posts I've read of yours, in a comment like "I'm a giant pain in the ass" you are probably doing both.

          I have regularly seen you make negative comments about yourself ("I'm not smart enough for grad school" "Some people are just unattractive and I'm one of those people") that just aren't true. And you saying them are not signs of self-awareness, but signs of jerkbrain doing a number on you. "I'm a giant pain in the ass" could very well be in this category 1.

          But in this thread, among others, you also express a real dislike of other people sometimes. And a real disinterest in them. You also have unapologetic anger towards these people you know–which makes "I'm a giant pain in the ass" seem like a deliberate choice that you don't feel bad about and don't plan on changing (because then you wouldn't be "who you are!"). "I'm a giant pain in the ass" could very well be in this category 2.

          I think you do need to find people who enjoy being analytical and talking about things in a geeky way…and whose geeky interests align with yours. I once dated a woman who found be to be terribly intense and annoying and invasive because I'd ask her how her day went. She didn't like talking analytically about anything. She preferred drinking beer and watching soccer…and she didn't even like talking analytically about soccer. The sex was good…but that didn't sustain the relationship because we just had different needs when in came to conversations. So I don't date non-intellectuals anymore. She's not a bad person, I'm not a bad person–we just weren't compatible. It is important to find compatible people to have in your life.

          I also think you need to cultivate interest in other people and other people's ideas. And learn to enjoy both intense moments as well as chill moments. Talking as well as listening. Engaging with people because you like people. A friendship is not me nerdranting at people or never saying anything I think and just agreeing with everything. Neither of those two things are friendships. A relationship involves knowing the small silly things as well as the large deep things. It is give and take. Both. It isn't just about showing off your brain and what you think about deep things. It is also listening to their passions and interests. It is knowing what you could give that person for a present because you know their likes and dislikes as well as their analytical take on Transformers. It is about knowing what they would need from you if you had a personal crises, not just your analytical take on the current situation Bengazi.

        • Juuuuuulia

          I also know how it feels that after a while, all the people you're talking to aren't listening to your ideas, it feels like ALL PEOPLE everywhere won't want to listen to you. So you automatically feel resentful of all people before they've done anything. A lot of us think that some of your friends DO sound like they're not right for you! So I think it might help you right now to distance yourself from them a bit to let the resentment wear off?

          Meanwhile, there are a lot of groups on the internet that are interested in analysis and deep conversation, so maybe try to get your socializing done in places like that for a while?

          We like you! We don't think you're a pain in the ass and we want to help you! =)

          • Juuuuuulia

            Also, because we don't think you're a pain in the ass, it can be kinda frustrating to hear you tell us that you're a pain in the ass. =/

          • Trooper6

            It is really, really frustrating.

            This conversation is very frustrating:
            A: I'm a pain in the ass that's why no one likes me.
            B: You aren't a pain in the ass, you seem perfectly nice. I suspect your friends are not right for you.
            A: No, I suck. I'm the worst.
            B: You don't suck. You aren't the worst. You are always very friendly and kind.
            A: No! I'm terrible. No one likes me.
            B: I like you.
            C: Me too!
            A: You all don't count.

            It is very hard to be person B in that conversation. Because person A just isn't listening to you at all.

          • But… Trooper's entire post was how I AM a giant ass, because I hate people and am disinterested in them. I mean, I don't think I am that way, but I recognize that other people seem to perceive my behavior that way, which is why I try to call it out myself (the truly accurate description of my behavior would have been "I am going to pick one one tiny detail of your entire post, even though I know it's somewhat irrelevant overall because I feel it's important, but I am a giant ass for picking on a small detail, and also for commenting way way too much and thread-jacking, but I desperately want to share my opinion and have no other outlet for doing so." Much faster to just say 'I am a giant ass.')

          • Trooper6

            If you feel like picking one detail about my post makes you an ass, then stop doing that.

            My entire post wasn't about how are are a giant ass. You are just taking the most negative reading of what was in my post. My post was about how "I'm an ass" usually means one of three things: 1) you have terrible self-esteem or 2) you are being emotionally manipulative in some way, 3) you are actually an ass.

            I don't think you comment too much, no one else has said that either. I don't think you thread-jack, no one else has said that either. I do think you are picking one detail of my post. Of course the one the you see as the most negative. If you think that is an ass thing to do, stop doing it. I think, most likely, it is a sing of terrible self esteem.

            However, in this above post you just wrote that you don't think you actually are an ass. But just call yourself one because you think other people think you are. So you are being disingenuous when you call yourself an ass.

            Don't call yourself an ass if you don't think you are one.
            It doesn't accomplish anything to do that.

            First thing is: Do you think, really and truly think you are a giant pain in the ass. Not do you think other people think that, but do *you* think that?

            If you don't think you are a giant pain in the ass, then find people who are compatible with you who will also then not think you are a giant pain in the ass.
            If you think you are a giant pain in the ass, ask yourself do you want to continue being a giant pain in the ass? If the answer is yes, then continue on and don't be apologetic about it. But I recommend finding people who like hanging out with giant pains in the ass…and there are a lot of those people. They also tend to be giant pains in the ass.
            If the answer is no, then you need to identify what elements *you* think are problematic behavior (not other people, or what you think other people think, but *you*). Behavior that you don't like, and then work on stopping doing that stuff that you don't like.

            But from where I'm sitting you are way too negative about yourself in ways that don't match how I, or Juuuuuulia or many others see you. So I'd recommend working through these things with a therapist you can talk to you in person and try to give you some outside perspective. And maybe you'll believe them when they tell you that you aren't the devil.

          • No, I do not think I am a giant pain in the ass. Nor do I think I am overly-talkative, hostile in my conversations, uninteresting, or even that disinterested in other people. However, that is what I am constantly TOLD.
            I have just accepted that I have a very skewed and different perception of the world from other people. Considering I have met, well, a LOT of people over my lifetime, and all of them have had a problem with me from one degree or another, I have come to the conclusion that I should assume my behavior is problematic. Since I don't think it's problematic, I have had to guess what exactly people don't like….. I see other people who act in certain ways (like picking out a tiny detail in an article to criticize) get called an ass, so when I do it, I call myself an ass.

            The only thing I don't like about myself, is how much other people don't like/are disinterested in me. So my changing my behavior depends ENTIRELY on what other people think of me.

            I have sat down with several therapists, for months at a time, and they can never figure out what's going on. I try to tell my stories as objectively as possible (knowing, of course, you can never be FULLY objective), or show them print-outs from online conversations, and they are just flabbergasted. They say the way I present myself to them seems completely contrary to the way my peers/friends see me. So…. maybe I'm secretly Jekyyl/Hyde?…

          • Robert

            If these people who are telling you that there's something wrong with you aren't telling you what it is or why there is, how do you know they're not just talking bullshit?

          • Robert

            On second thoughts, "bullshit" is probably not the right word. What I mean is, if they're not backing up their claim that something's wrong with you, then it does not make sense to treat it as an objective truth, since technically you cannot know that their claim that something is wrong with you is correct. There might be something that they themselves don't like about you, but that isn't the same thing.

        • Juuuuuulia

          I think I'm going to argue that there's no such thing as a jerk (or an asshole, or a bitch, or a pain in the ass, etc).

          Suppose you do a lot of jerk-ish things to Person A. That person has reason to suspect that you are likely to do more jerk-ish things to them. Therefore, from THEIR point of view, you are a jerk. "A jerk" is just a shorthand way of saying "person from whom I expect jerkish things in the future". Meanwhile, suppose there is another Person B that you've only had nice or neutral interactions with, so person B doesn't think you are a jerk. Are you objectively a jerk? That's a meaningless question.

          If a large group of people all think you're a jerk, that STILL doesn't even mean you're objectively a jerk. It might mean that you need to change your behavior. Or change groups! But the next person you meet outside of that group still has no reason to think you're a jerk. You are not a jerk.

          Therefore, if we say that you are not a pain in the ass, then you are not a pain in the ass. Because "pain in the ass" is OUR shorthand that WE get to use, and WE have no reason to expect anything from you other than nice, respectful comments. By that logic, you can say you're a pain in the ass only if you piss yourself off (You forget your keys? You walk into things?) but that is between you and you and not relevant to OUR discussion with you.

    • Myster Baad

      "… Because I'm also a giant pain in the ass, I also quibble that being social IS a need. You can survive without a romantic relationship, certainly, but a lack of ANY social relationships will lead to depression and, left untreated, suicide. Social contact and relationships are a human need; we are social creatures, we do not do well in isolation or loneliness."

      I agree. All the same, Marty, you are overlooking a fundamental unfairness of life: We don't always deserve what we need. Social contact is no different. If you can't conquer the natural urge to be a PITA, you may very well, and understandably, be on the path to a life of depression and isolation.

  • psychsage

    Did you get a degree in psychology recently because this seems like something my therapist would tell me.

    • Dr_NerdLove

      Doctor NerdLove is not a real doctor.However, I AM considering getting a degree from a diploma mill so I can be a real FAKE doctor.

      • x_Sanguine_8

        get it in something like history or classical languages, just to up the irony factor.

      • Gentleman Johnny

        The Universal Life Church has a lovely Honorary Doctor Of Divinity degree. It is, as they say, as valid as any other honorary degree issued by any religious institution. It also looks great on your wall, preferably where clients can't look too closely at it.

  • OldBrownSquirrel

    This describes me pretty well. I'm also rebounding from a toxic relationship that I only left once I decided that I'd be happier being alone forever than staying. The divorce isn't final yet, which is my big excuse for not looking; rationally, I don't expect anyone is going to want to date me until things are finalized, whether for moral reasons or simply from aversion to drama. I'm increasingly unconvinced that I should start looking once that's all done, though. I'm at a point where I can't realistically imagine anyone finding me attractive. I'm coming to terms with this, though, which I see as a stage in getting beyond neediness.

  • SarahGryph

    Thank you so much for this article. Long story short, I've dated a lot of needy guys and yes, those relationships do become toxic and draining for both parties. It's gotten to the point where I'd be in a relationship with a guy, he'd do something without thinking and I'd say "hey, could you please not do that again?" and it would always turn into an hour long sessions of "I did it because I'm a loser, I'll always be a loser, you deserve so much better than me" and me spending all the time feeling like a horrible person for ever bringing anything up in the first place. Needless to say, the usually small issue itself (like bringing me home later from a date than I wanted) were never solved. Some of those relationships seriously messed with my head by the end; I finally learned from it but I can definitely say that "clingy" early on gives me huge red flags now. I'm not willing to put myself back in that place where I'm 100% responsible for the other person's entire happiness and sense of self worth; I *can't* do that for someone else anyway, I can only wear myself out trying.

    • SarahGryph

      In case it sounds whiny to complain from being on the receiving end of neediness; I don't like hurting people's feelings. I would literally go home from some of those nights and cry for hours because what was wrong with me that I coudn't give enough support? They trusted me to be the one woman who was "different" and clearly I was letting them down even though I did everything I could think of to show how much I cared. Again yes, now I know that was unhealthy but I wanted to speak from my experiences while I was still in that sort of situation. It also ends up being manipulative whether you mean to be or not; a relationship that is one huge guilt trip isn't a good thing for either party. When things go wrong, turning the conversation into how you're a loser deflects actually fixing the issue or giving a sincere apology.

      • eselle28

        I don't think it sounds whiny, but that's because I've been there. It's so much pressure to be exactly the person who your partner wants you to be at all times, and to have so much of the relationship focus around either avoiding triggering his insecurities or apologizing for triggering them or discussing them and how they impacted the relationships.

        Relationships need to be fun at least some of the time, and I don't know, I have needs too and can't always be the caregiver.

        • SarahGryph

          Thanks, though sorry to hear you've been there. It's also a shame because I want to give people a chance; but it really has become a serious red flag, run away, for me. On the other hand I'm glad I've recognized that relationships like that are bad for me and not getting in/staying in them anymore.

      • Mel_

        Totally agree with this. I had a similar dynamic with my first boyfriend. I would mention that some thing bothered me, and no matter what it was, instead of explaining or apologizing or even telling me he didn't think it was that big a deal, he'd crumple into this spiral of self-loathing, and the only way we could get out of it was if *I* apologized and reassured him. So I never got any reassurance for the thing I was upset about, and I had to put my own feelings aside and put all my energy into supporting him, every time. It felt awful.

        The biggest problem with that sort of neediness is that it means your emotions always come first–you can't really support your partner because you're always mainly focused about how everything impacts you. Something's gone wrong–instead of making sure she's okay or working through it with her, you're absorbed by how bad you feel about screwing up. And a selfish partner, even if you don't mean to be selfish, is never appealing.

        I'll also note that neediness is an even bigger problem if you're needy in general, not just with the person you're attracted to or in a relationship with. With that same boyfriend, he was so afraid to have *anyone* think badly of him that whenever we had a falling out, if someone asked him about it he'd make it sound like it was just me being hyper-critical and not mention the things he'd done that contributed to the problem (like, he lied to me about something major, and then would tell other people that I'd said I wasn't sure I could trust him without noting that he'd in fact done something untrustworthy), so his family and friends ended up thinking I was this controlling harpy. That wasn't much fun. And a lot of the problems in our relationship were caused because he was needy about getting validation from everyone, so he'd let me down when someone else wanted something from him… Basically whoever was there in front of him, he'd go along with, regardless of prior promises or plans.

        It's hard for you to be really caring and considerate to someone else if you can't even be caring and considerate to your own decisions and needs, on your own.

        • SarahGryph

          Oh ouch, what a mess and I'm sorry you went through that! I agree with every point you've made up there though. I wish I'd gotten it through my skull earlier in life that "selfish by accident" is still selfish. Different people need to learn different things the hard way, I suppose. I still remember being mad at myself after my last really bad relationship like that and telling my mom I was so disappointed in myself bc I thought I knew better. (Hindsight makes things so easy!) She told me that just with who I am, she'd actually half expected me to hit a really really bad one and was just glad I came out of it wiser. Whether it makes sense or not, that made me feel much better. I'm glad you came out the other side and learned, as well! =)

          • Mel_

            Yeah, I can't say I wish I'd never had a that relationship, because as fraught as it was, it taught me an awful lot about what I wanted and needed out of a relationship, what I definitely didn't want, and what kind of a person *I* wanted to be as a romantic partner.

    • Anonymoose47

      That makes me mad. If they're a loser that don't deserve you, then break it off and let you go find someone you "deserve" rather than just fish for compliments to make'em feel wanted.

      • Mel_

        I think you see it happen with people who don't totally believe they don't deserve you. They're pretty sure they don't, but they don't want to be right, so they go through that whole cycle of neediness and fishing for reassurance in the hopes you'll convince them they do after all. (Unfortunately, no matter how much convincing you do, they end up doubting it again almost immediately. Everyone needs reassurance now and then–it's needing it constantly that's a problem.)

        • Gentleman Johnny

          And in your judgement, they do deserve to be with you. So the first reaction to hearing that they don't is to try and reassure them. While I'm not saying its a deliberate "move" that the needy person makes, it can be a very effective one by not only preying on care giving instincts but forcing the needed partner to remind him/herself of all the needy partner's positive qualities.

          • eselle28

            Interesting. What would you suggest as a response instead? Ignoring it? Acknowledging and then moving on? Calling out the behavior?

          • Mel_

            If I were in a situation similar to the one with my first boyfriend again, the best response I can think of is to not engage emotionally. To try to stay calm and level-headed rather than be drawn into the spiral, so you can say, "Look, I'm really not saying you're a bad person, I just think we need to talk about X. Can you talk about that right now?" and if they keep beating themselves up, "I don't mean that at all, and you know I don't think that way about you. But I can't have a real conversation with you while you're talking like this. I think we'd better take some time to ourselves–call me when you're feeling better." Don't punish the behavior, but don't reinforce it either. Make it clear where you stand, and if they can't stop the spiral, disengage until they're in a position to actually talk.

            I'd guess this will result in the person either realizing the spiraling isn't accomplishing anything and finding different ways to address their insecurities, or in them being unable to get out of the pattern. And if it was the latter, after a few incidents I think I'd break up with them.

          • eselle28

            Thanks, those sound like good suggestions. Sometimes it's helpful for me to have some things to say in mind ahead of time when having those conversations, otherwise I'm prone to turning into a blubbering ball of apologies and making excuses on behalf of the shame spiraler.

            These days, I regard it as a huge red flag for dating and it's been a long time since I've been with a romantic partner who had those tendencies, but there's someone in my life who behaves similarly who would be a lot harder to stop talking to (if only you could break up with relatives…).

          • Mel_

            I think, in general, the most effective way to respond to over-emotion ("OMG you asked me to call next time I'm going to be late, clearly you think I'm a wretched excuse for a human being") is to be as calm and even-tempered as possible. The person getting emotional usually wants you to get emotional too, because that'll make them feel justified (one way or another). Staying calm can help diffuse the situation and bring them out of it… kind of like talking quieter when someone starts yelling can often get them to quiet down too (whereas if you yell back, you both just get louder and louder).

          • SarahGryph

            Yes, this. I remember being very proud of myself one of the first times I deliberately responded in that way to someone and realized I wasn't being cruel. Depending in the specifics of the relationship, I'd say that you could also discuss how the statements affect you but probably *not* right in the moment as you're dealing with the situation. And again to keep level headed about it. Maybe that was just my first babystep to being able to actually disengage from the conversation, but I think I probably specified "I am not ok with talking about this while you're still reacting this way," since it removes arguments to keep talking when I make it clear that *I* am not going to have *this* conversation right now. If I found myself in an ongoing relationship with someone who was acting like that I likely would sit down and talk to them in a neutral space and explain better why that reaction isn't helpful. But at the moment I'm happier trying to avoid being in that spot in the first place.

          • SarahGryph

            Also if I'm not sure of someone is serious about "not deserving me" or just teasing; I usually just tease the first time and say all mock-insulted that they better not be questioning my taste in men. ^^ I know this thread is more about the serious "this is not cool" situations but on a lighter note; when it's not actually a huge issue I've been able to get my point across that way.

          • SarahGryph

            Gentleman Johnny; I think you're spot on here. I hadn't thought about it in quite those terms; I'm glad you posted. I knew that the end result was a night full of telling the other person how wonderful they are but I hadn't nailed down the thought as concisely as you did. It doesn't only avoid the issue at hand, it completely reverses the conversation into "you are wonderful and do everything right, please ignore whatever I just said about my own feelings and hurt as they are clearly insignificant in comparison to your neediness and self doubt."

      • enail

        Also, I don't think it's always as black and white as that. Not only is it often unintentional on the part of the compliment-fisher (not that intention matters much if it's making you unhappy!), but there are degrees – someone can be a little insecure and occasionally veer a little bit into derailing needs for reassurance without being a total manipulative "I'm a loser, drop everything and comfort me" type. And different people have different levels of tolerance. So it can be hard for people to tell right away whether it's just a bit of insecurity they can deal with in a relationship and trust the other person to work on, or if it should be a dumping offense.

    • thesurfmonkey

      I think the only workable answer to the emotional blackmail that is "I did it because I'm a loser, I'll always be a loser, you deserve so much better than me" is to say "Hmm, maybe you're right. Are you saying you want to break up?"

      • SarahGryph

        That's the answer my brother would give me. (He's an amazing guy but not always known for tact!) But the reason that particular emotional blackmail works is because you're already with someone who wants to help and support people they care about…so an answer like that is the exact opposite of what comes naturally. Though I'll admit to saying many times to my mom that that is what I *should* have said to certain people, after the fact!

        • thesurfmonkey

          I think I've just dealt with that kind of emotional blackmail enough times that now I immediately go to my "I'm sick of this nonsense" place rather than engaging like I used to. It gets my back up when I sense that someone is trying to script my lines for me.

          • SarahGryph

            No argument there; and I think it is better to be able to realize when it's happening sooner rather than later. I probably should have been more specific in my comment that I meant until someone sees the emotional blackmail for what it is, it's hard to feel comfortable saying something like that. Once you get it, that's a different story. Though for me I still wouldn't feel ok with saying to someone "ok, you are a loser." That's just my personal preference; I'm more comfortable with the sort of conversation Mel was talking about before; staying level headed and refusing to have the conversation on those terms.

  • eselle28

    The objectification point is a good one. I think it's good to point out that when people are turned off by neediness, it's not because their brains are tricking them into rejecting kindness and emotional support. A lot of needy behaviors end up looking sort of jerky to the person on the receiving end of them.

    Wanting to spend all your time with someone new can be more demanding and stressful than sweet. Needing constant validation and reassurance means that you and your feelings end up being the centerpiece of most conversations. Wanting to be with someone, anyone, can make it hard to focus on your partner's individuality. It also seems to lend itself to focusing on what the relationship will do for you (provide attention, validation, romance, sex) and not on how you will interact with the other person or what their needs might be. Obsessing over that one perfect person often means you don't know the person that well, or are viewing them as an archetype.

    None of these things are very fun to be around. I don't necessarily think you can snap your fingers and stop being needy, but I think it's worthwhile to at least identify some of the behaviors associated with it and tone them down a bit.

    • SarahGryph

      "I think it's good to point out that when people are turned off by neediness, it's not because their brains are tricking them into rejecting kindness and emotional support." Great point there; this isn't about the "girls only want assholes who don't care about them" myth. It's that neediness and putting someone up on a high pedestal aren't really caring in a healthy manner. I don't like being told that someone "needs" me or that I'm "perfect" bc then we aren't partners; I'm in this weird space where I'm responsible for doling out love to a lowly supplicant and just NO! That's not a position I want to be in.

  • LeeEsq

    This might be unrelated but its something that I've been wondering about lately. Several posters on this site have wrote that commiting a vibe that any woman would do for a relationship is a deal-killer since its a sign of desperation and neediness. I've been having trouble getting second dates. I don't think I come across as particularly needy on dates. My post-date response is in line with the good response, thanking them for a lovelytime and asking them out again. One of my issues might be that I'm not conveying enough individualized interest in a woman on first date. The problem is that I really don't know if its possible for me to make a woman I'm meeting for the first time feel special enough on the first date becaus I don't know them well enough to know if I want to be a relationship with them.

    • Anonymoose47

      I'd say 1) Don't worry about trying to make her feel special and 2) Ask for a second date on the phone.

    • eselle28

      Ask her things. Be interested in the replies. Notice the details she mentions, and ask her about those. Try to figure out what makes her unique from other women who are about her age and have similar jobs and shop at the same stores.

      On a first date, individualized interest isn't so much trying to make someone feel special like you might if you were dating her. It's being motivated to learn more.

      • Mel_

        Agreed with this. These are women you're mostly meeting online, yes? Presumably there's something you're interested in about them, from what you've seen in their profiles or in the emails you've exchanged? (You're not just going out with any woman who'll say yes?) Talk about whatever interests or history they've mentioned that you find interesting too, which both shows you've paid attention to them and lets you get to know them better.

        It also might be worth considering, what have women done that's mades the difference between an okay date and a great date for *you*? And can you try to do similar things with the women you meet?

      • LeeEsq

        Er, I do this. I try to keep the focus on her as much as possible and make comparisons.

        • eselle28

          Then that may not be the problem. (If it sounded like basic, kiddie level advice, it wasn't because I was trying to be condescending. I've been on lots of dates, especially online ones, where I very much felt like one of many professional 30ish women who was interviewing for the Girlfriend position).

          It may just be something subtle you're doing that's offputting. You mentioned your therapist had some theories. I think you may need to focus on whatever specific behaviors are involved, and see if you can modify some of them.

          • LeeEsq

            According to my therapist there are times when it looks like I'm not there/disassociated in a situation combined with occassionally appearing flat, which is a clincical term basically showing no emotion, and he thinks that this might be reason I'm having trouble. Or it might not be. Like I said in earlier posts, he thinks, that I have a sort of vibe that causes people to think "whats with this guy" while being too close to normal in behavior to come off as an eccentric or for people to overlook the vibe they get from me. So basically its a combination of having normal/good social skills combined with giving off uncanny valley vibes.

          • eselle28

            It's hard to picture things like this from descriptions, but I can see that fitting with your description of having problems getting second dates, but seemingly doing fairly well with other kinds of socializing.

            Do you think it's possible to practice (either with your therapist or with an especially sympathetic friend) so you can get an idea when you're dissociating or appearing flat, and either see what's going on with you emotionally during those times or (if it's just a tic) figure out some tricks to avoid doing it?

          • Gentleman Johnny

            You've got emotional uncanny valley? That's weird and kinda cool.

        • Trooper6

          Maybe "keeping the focus on her as much as possible" is part of the problem? If you are asking her lots of questions, but not sharing equally in return, it can come off a bit lie an inquisition. And then there is the power imbalance where you know all about her and she knows little about you. Maybe work a bit more on egalitarian conversation rater than the extreme.

          Next, you might want to read up on how women communicate and what woen tend to respond to (not all women of course, on average) generally being open, friendly, smiling, all of that will help. Now, you might say that doesn't come naturally to you. At the moment I'm doing some research on how transwomen change their voices to sound female. If a 6 foot ex-football payer can make changes to sound like Marilyn Monroe, you can learn some speech and conversation techniques to come across more warmly. Maybe take some singing lessons, or see a speech language pathologist.

      • Max

        It also helps to put yourself in the mindset that these women should have to prove themselves worthy to you, in the same way that you have to prove yourself worthy to them. You didn't think you two clicked? Move on.

    • enail

      Yeah, I think it's not so much that you have to make them feel SPECIAL, so much as that they need to feel like what you know about them so far makes you interested in getting to know them specifically, as opposed to someone that has their general characteristics.

      • LeeEsq

        This isn't something that I think I can pull off an a first encounter naturally.

        • eselle28

          Really? I'm kind of curious why not. I get the introvert's shudder everytime I have to go out on a first date, but there's also a bit of fun that comes with learning about a new person who I'm attracted to and have gotten a little intrigued with following the messages we sent together.

          Is it that you're not terribly interested in the women you're asking out, or that it's hard not to think of your dates as general types, or something else entirely?

          • LeeEsq

            No, I'm able to find out about learning about the person I'm going on a date with. Like I said, I talk, ask questions about their life and what interests them, and make comments. Being able to ask and answer questions is part of my job. What I meant was that even though I do this, I don't know if I'm creating a feeling that I'm interested in them particularly during the date. There has to be some reasons that I never get a second date even if I thought the first one really went well and we get along fabulously.

          • Mel_

            What is it that you see during the first dates that makes you think the first one has gone well and you get along with the other person fabulously? Because it does seem odd that you would feel that way and still not be getting any second dates, and it's hard to know why without knowing how you define that.

            About the asking questions etc., a big part of showing interest is enthusiasm. Holding a fair bit of eye contact while they're answering to show you're paying attention to the answer, talking as if you find their answers intriguing, sharing something from your own experience that shows why you're interested ("I love that band too! Saw them in concert here last year–they were amazing. Have you ever seen them live?"), an open and relaxed smile that looks genuine, laughing when something funny comes up… If you're doing that, even if your affect goes flat every now and then, I think most people would still feel you're interested, unless when it goes flat you look not just temporarily unemotional but outright miserable.

          • LeeEsq

            The fact that there was constant back and forth in the conversation, that we seem to have similar or complimentary interests, that we could relate to each other, that I found said person physically attractive, and the feeling of wanting to see them again. As opposed to the dates where I found the person meh to annoying and did not feel physically attracted at all. And yes, I make eye contact, share my own experiences, etc. There isn't advice that I've received that I'm not doing. Nor is there a failure in communication about my intent, the rejections I've received at least let me know that the women understand my interest in them is romantic and sexual.

            I'd really like to get into their heads and see how I come off from the outside. It might help a lot.

          • Mel_

            "I'd really like to get into their heads and see how I come off from the outside. It might help a lot."

            Wouldn't we all, at some point or another! 🙂

            What you described does sound to me like getting along well, assuming that during the conversation the woman is smiling and laughing and seems relaxed. I think I have to come back to approximately what I've said before, which is that it's probably either something you're doing that is subtle enough that we can't tell from your descriptions (if this, most likely that you're coming on a little too strong/intense because you're focused on finding romance ASAP and making sure you do everything "right") or you're asking out women who don't actually click with your personality that well.

            I know you've talked before about your friends not introducing you to people and most get-togethers not having many other single people there, but you've also talked about being really into dance. Have you tried asking out women you've met through classes/clubs/wherever you dance recreationally? I just ask because I wonder if you'd have better success if you were having first dates with women who already knew you somewhat in person–who wouldn't have agreed to even the first date if they didn't feel some chemistry–and that sounds like one area of your life you should be meeting quite a few women.

          • LeeEsq

            This might be the case but I really don't know. I do my best to be laid back and relaxed on dates and not seem desperate. I really don't think I come across as the male equivalent of the women who talks about marriage on the first date. The most pressing think I'd say is something to the equivalent of "I'd like to see you again sometime" and I only ask this if things really went well IMO. Women have given me their telephone numbers and personal emails at the end of the first date. Tend to wait at least a couple of days for the follow up so I do not come across as needy.

          • LeeEsq

            Or bluntly, the reactions I've gotten at requests for a second date have been this; the most usual response is that "I'm a great guy but they felt no chemistry", no response, or they don't think we'd make a good couple. The last response always leaves me a bit incredulous because how the hell can you decide this after one meeting?

          • Anonymoose47

            Doesn't that usually translate to "I'm bored, I need someone more entertaining."

          • enail

            No, I don't think so. I think it either translates to "You're a great guy but they felt no chemistry," or "there's something immediately apparent about your style of interaction or your lifestyle that makes me think we would find it more trouble than it was worth to try and date." But it's a vague enough response that it could translate to any number of things.

          • enail

            Also, you seem to have an idea that one of the major qualities people look for in relationships is 'entertaining.' I don't think that's true for most people, or at least not if by 'entertaining' you mean life of the party, laugh-a-minute, fun-fun-fun extravert.

          • Anonymoose47

            That's what "chemistry" always sounds like to me.

          • enail

            I don't think that's what chemistry is. I've felt chemistry many times (whether friend-chemistry or romantic), but the life-of-the-party-est person in the room is rarely the person I like the best, and I'm only occasionally the life-of-the-party-est person in a given room myself.

            It's not something objective and universal, and it's not the same as charisma (which I would say also isn't the same as entertaining) or popularity – an individual person can't have a high chemistry score.

            It's almost more like…alchemy – when you put two people together who have qualities that work well with each other in a particular way, it creates something new, an energy or feeling of mutual enthusiasm.

          • Trooper6

            There are a lot of people who entertain me, but I think–oof! I wouldn't want to date that person…way too high maintenance/tiring/etc. (No chemistry)

            Or I think, Wow! How fun! But I don't want to kiss them. (No chemistry)

            There are people who are "hot"–but no chemistry.

            Chemistry is about mutual attraction…and that is super dependent on each individual pairs of people.

            If you don't like extraverts, it'll be hard to have chemistry with extraverts. If you don't like analytical-types, it'll be hard to have chemistry with analytical-types, and so on.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            Lewis Black – very entertaining, definitely not date material.

          • Trooper6

            And let's be really honest. There are a lot of very entertaining people (musicians, comedians, actors, dancers, etc) that are an entire closet full of bad idea jeans.

            Many people become the life of the party to cover up some serious personal issues that I don't want to date.

            This is why when Lewis Black kept asking me out, I had to turn him down. You too Lindsey Lohan!

          • eselle28

            No. I've frequently had chemistry with men who were quiet, or serious, or both.

            When I don't have chemistry with someone, it means I'm not interpersonally attracted to them or that I'm not physically attracted to them or both.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I think the last one can sometimes translate to "I am phrasing nicely that for some reason I felt eh." Some people don't really process their feelings! Which means things they say are unhelpful and therefore no use dwelling on. =/

          • eselle28

            Yes, this is true. There have been a couple of times where the only reason I could list was, "I just don't feel very excited about the idea of seeing you again."

            I also think there are a lot of cases where the person doesn't want to have an in depth conversation about the issue or is worried about getting an angry reaction or dealing with an attempt to change the decision. That makes things tough for people who want feedback, but I think it's within someone's rights if we're only talking about a first date. If I only spent an hour and a half with someone, I'd rather not spend another half hour on the phone explaining why I didn't think we had much in common, or why I'm not willing to accept something about his life.

          • Becelec

            This is something that my boyfriend always seems to worry about – that he's not "entertaining" enough for me. He's quite introverted and quiet and I'm rather extroverted and loud, and he's always worrying that he's too boring for me. I keep trying to explain to him that it's not his job to keep me entertained, I can entertain myself. I just enjoy being in his company, he doesn't need to be doing anything, I just want him to be there for me. And we have insane amounts of chemistry (which btw, I consider to be palpable feelings of attraction that you actually feel going both ways – not just when you feel it but when you KNOW they feel it too.)

          • Anonymoose47

            It's baffling from the more introverted side.

            To me, an extrovert seeks out action, whether it be crazy stimulating environments, or lots of people to talk to, or just something with some buzz or energy going on. Which is just not the natural state of someone leaning towards introvert, and I'd say most introverts have had that experience where someone has told them they're too quiet or not taking part or being a drag or something. I can imagine it being a situation where the thought process would be "Okay, this person may like me now for [whatever reason], but there's going to come a point (probably soon) when I'm not stimulating them enough, or they want some excitement, or I can't play at the same social level or hang with the amount of action they want to." It'd be utterly baffling even with chemistry.

          • Trooper6

            According to Meyers-Briggs an extrovert is not a person who must have va-va-va-voom action, but a person whose energy is replenished by being around other people. While an introvert is a person whose energy is replenished by being alone. The difference is about where you put your attention and energy.

            Being an introvert doesn't mean you aren't exciting; it also doesn't mean you are necessarily shy or bad with people. Those are different things altogether. You can be an extravert and still be terrible with people or awkward. Just as you can be an introvert and have the skills to be very good with people–though that isn't what charges your batteries.

            I am an extrovert, but I spend (and enjoy spending) lots of time alone. But after I've worked really hard, if I'm low energy…the way for me fix that problem is to go and talk to people. After spending a lot of time in my apartment writing, I have to talk to someone to recharge a bit. It doesn't even have to be lots of people, and it doesn't have to be party-time excitement. I get a buzz by talking to people, and that buzz carries me over for the days on end I sit behind my computer working on my manuscript.

            An introvert can certainly be around people and even enjoy it. But when their batteries are low, they need some alone time to recharge.

            And of course this is a continuum rather than a binary.

            Here is a Meyers-Briggs page that talks about Introversion vs. Extroversion.

            I recommend taking the test if you ever get a chance, it is a neat thing to check out.

          • Anonymoose47

            I hit on ISTJ the last time I did it.

            Even on the energy exchange thing, the extrovert would want to get that buzz from the introvert, but the introvert's batteries may not last. One thing that would be on my mind with an extrovert is how to balance that energy exchange interpersonally and still have enough for everyone/everything else.

          • Trooper6

            As an extrovert who has dated introverts, I don't need to get the buzz from the introvert, I just need to get the buzz in general. I am currently single and I'm getting all the extrovert energy I need. I don't date people to use them for energy. I can take care of myself. I date people because I like them.

            I get energy from my gaming group. I get energy from lunch with colleagues. I get energy from talking on the phone with my friends and family. I get energy teaching my students. I get energy taking my German class. I have all sorts of energy in my life. So as long as my introvert partner doesn't mind that I have friends and hobbies and a job…there is no problem. Just like I have no problem if my introvert partner says to me: "Hey, I need to take some time for myself for the next few days, I'll see you on Saturday," or if we live together, "I need some alone time to recharge." That's totally fine with me.

            I don't date people because I want something from them. I don't date people to take anything from them. I do not have any needs or gaps or holes in my life. My life is awesome and I am happy. I am together and grooving on in my life. Getting into a relationship for me is not about fixing any lack, but sharing my groovy life with someone equally groovy. And I know myself and expect someone I date to know themselves. So that introvert should know how they recharge their batteries, already have means in place to do that–and then just let me know.

            Introverts find interactions draining. I don't take things from people. So I don't drain my introvert friends or lovers. I calibrate so they don't lose energy.

            Now, if a person is such an extreme introvert that having a general chat about how their day went is too draining and they need a partner who never actually talks to them…then we won't get along and I won't date that person. But I also wouldn't date an extrovert energy vampire.

            I like dating people where when we come together we are even more awesome–but we start out as awesome already.

          • enail

            " I don't date people to use them for energy. " Extraverts: Not the Negaverse.

          • Becelec

            Ah! Childhood flashbacks!!!! Who am I kidding – I have the whole series of Sailor Moon on DVD.

          • Anonymoose47

            Obligatory just-in-case-you-haven't-heard:

            Japan's remaking Sailor Moon in 2013

          • enail

            I heard about this, but I really can't decide whether to be suspicious or excited. Now that's a series I would love to be in charge of remaking if I were some sort of professional remaker.

          • Mel_

            Trooper6 covers this really well from the extrovert's side. To give you an introvert's perspective: Something I've found in my two really close romantic relationships is when I'm totally comfortable and secure around another person, being around them is no longer emotionally draining. I find just being in the presence of most people, even if we're not talking much/at all, to be a slow wear on my energy, but I can spend all day within ten feet of my husband (and have done so for days at a time when we're on vacation) and it doesn't tire me out at all. In fact, in some cases it makes me less tired than if I was alone, because having him there can deflect some of the discomfort I feel, for example, walking around in an unfamiliar or crowded place.

            I think that what makes being around other people draining for most introverts is the uncertainties–how are you coming off to those people? Do you like you or not? Did you say or do the wrong thing? Etc. And so once you're close enough with someone that you trust that they'll still love and respect you if you sometimes make a mistake or put your foot in your mouth, the stress of those uncertainties goes away.

            Now, you still have to be with someone who respects your need to not always be actively socializing. Even when I'm with my husband all day, a fair bit of that time we're doing our own thing in the same room. I'm sure there are extroverts who want a partner who'll regularly be out at social events with them, or constantly available to chat at home, and an introvert is not going to be a good partner for those people. But obviously there are also extroverts like Becelec and Trooper6 who don't need *constant* interaction, and there it can work out quite well. 🙂

          • enail

            Yes to the really close relationships not being draining. My wife and I are both introverts, but we don't get drained from spending a lot of time together (although we do very much need our own space).

            I disagree, though on it being uncertainties that makes being around people draining for introverts. I'm a kind of weirdly secure person and spend very little energy thinking about how I'm coming off to others, but I still need vast amounts of alone-time between social engagements.

          • Mel_

            Well, I think I phrased that badly. I mean it in a more general sense as well–even if you're not necessarily worried about what other people think and how that affects your self esteem, socializing with people you don't know really really well is always a balancing act of reading their responses and figuring out the best ways to communicate what you want to communicate and navigating social rules and expectations, and that requires energy, even when you're doing it unconsciously, even when you're totally secure in who you are. It's like a really subtle and complex puzzle game. Some people enjoy the "challenge" and get energized by "playing" (so the energy expended is counterbalanced) and some find the challenge draining.

            But that might not apply to all introverts, of course. It's just how it seems to me. 🙂

          • enail

            I see what you mean, good explanation. I'm not sure whether that applies to me or not, it's hard to tell. Now I'm going to have to think about what actually is draining about interaction.

          • Anonymoose47

            I've heard a theory that extraverts have great short term memory neurotransmitters (may be the wrong term, it was something along those lines) while an introvert doesn't. An extravert will recognize facial expressions and hit on what to say pretty quickly, whereas an introvert needs extra processing time to recognize what's going on, and it's also a potential explanation why an introvert needs to stop and think of the right word from time to time.

          • Delafina

            That may be true. I remember having a talk with someone who was pretty introverted about pitching ideas. My mentor has a pretty similar personality and presentation style to me, so what I learned from him was that pitching an idea is a conversation, in that you're constantly reading the room and re-adjusting how you're presenting the idea to make sure it resonates with the people you're pitching to. You build rapport by watching for what gets your audience engaged and excited and then directing your pitch into those channels.

            But I was talking to this guy who's pretty successful in the industry (in that he certainly keeps getting funding), and he's an introvert, and he told me that he has to rely on just having a really solid pitch and being prepared for any questions. And maybe it's because he can't read faces and react as quickly.

            As someone who makes up metaphors/ideas/directions as I go along when I present, I really admire how confident he must be to go in with a pitch and just stick to that and sell it even if people don't seem to get it/like it at first. I'd wilt the first time someone said, "Eh, I'm just not seeing it."

          • enail

            Again, I have to say I don't think this is a defining feature for introverts/extroverts. As a presenter, I'm pretty good at adjusting on the fly based on what my audience is giving off, even though I'm definitely an introvert

            On the other hand, I think if I was pitching story ideas, I might have to be more like that fellow, b/c I'm too close to my own ideas to be able to see how it's coming off from someone else's perspective. Based on that, I'd have to guess it's more about empathetic skills than about intro/extra.

          • Trooper6

            Not being able to read faces sounds more like Aspergers or Autism spectrum rather than introversion.

          • Joy

            I'm not even sure it has anything to do with how well you know someone. I'm an introvert whose mother married into a family of extraverts, all of whom I know reasonably well by this point and most of whose company I quite enjoy. I like these people, I'm genuinely happy to see them when we all get together, but after a few hours of being in a room full of extraverts, I feel like I need a quiet room with a good book or even a nice long nap!

          • Mel_

            I'm talking about really, really knowing someone well. And being totally comfortable with them. I've only had that with my first boyfriend (although there were a lot of other messed up elements to that relationship) and my husband. I don't even feel that way with my parents or brother, even though I have a pretty good relationship with them.

          • Delafina

            As someone who's off-the-charts extroverted and dating someone who's right in the middle to mild introvert, I get my energy from a lot of different sources (work, parties, friends). But being an extrovert doesn't mean that you have to get all your energy from high-energy situations.

            I have introvert friends with whom I enjoy hanging out quietly, watching TV, playing chess, doing crafts, etc. My boyfriend and I go out and do stuff, but we also spend a lot of time just quietly hanging out. These activities aren't taxing for introverts, generally (some of my friends who aren't at the far end of the introversion/extroversion scale actually say they find them refreshing, too, even though they're not alone), and they refresh me, too, in a sort of serene way that's very different from the high-energy situations, but equally good.

          • Trooper6

            Indeed. I rarely go to parties. I recharged playing D&D (GURPS really, but you know, details, details). I get recharged having an analytical discussion with one person about Battlestar Galactica. I get recharged by interacting with people…it doesn't have to be huge groups of people, we don't have to be partying or bouncing off the ceiling. There are lots of mellow recharging options.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            I bounce all over that test depending on the day, time of day etc. Having said that, I can be quite extroverted, I've dated people who are quite extroverted and quite not. One of the sort of benchmarks that makes me feel a lot better about a growing relationship is whether or not we can both sit in the same room reading different books and feel like its a good evening in each others' company.

          • Trooper6

            Oh me too!

            I'm an extravert, and I also am quite a social performer and energy radiator (which i don't think are synonymous). So the person I am at a party is different than who I am at home. It is important to me that the person I date is happy with both the social intense me as well as the me that wants to just sit reading a book in another person's company.

          • Beclec

            "Okay, this person may like me now for [whatever reason], but there's going to come a point (probably soon) when I'm not stimulating them enough, or they want some excitement, or I can't play at the same social level or hang with the amount of action they want to."

            No kidding you sound just like my boyfriend when you write that! I've been living with the man for two years now, and not once have I thought he was less than absolutely perfect for me. He's a worrier by nature, I can't stop him from doing that, but I'm sure as hell not going anywhere! He might think that he's boring and interesting, but I find him unbelievably fascinating. I know all his flaws as well by now, but to me he's still the most beautiful person I've ever met, and I'm utterly grateful that he puts up with me.

            Extrovert+introvert absolutely can work, even though it can sound baffling as you say.

          • Anonymoose47

            I'd definitely be in his boat. It's not even that we find what we do boring or uninteresting, it's just we know what you loud, obnoxi- er, extroverted girls generally find fascinating, and it doesn't usually match the way we carry ourselves or spend our time.

            Or even "this can't be that fascinating, I think this way all the time, it should be predictable."

          • Becelec

            Not all extroverts are obnoxious you know. Not even most.

          • Anonymoose47

            That part was a joke but it didn't translate too well online. Sorry. 🙁

          • enail

            I got it as a joke, but I think in a way the point still stands that extroverts are not only not all obnoxious but also not all loud, or assertive, or party animals, which i think a lot people think they are.

            I think the categories of introvert and extrovert both encompass a much wider range of personalities and interests than stereotype holds. For instance, I'm an introvert through and through, and yet, I'm completely obnoxious! 😀

          • Becelec

            All good. Also, should add: what do you mean by you know what extroverted girls generally find fascinating? What do you think we find communally fascinating? I find this a strange assumption to make because everybody is different.

          • Anonymoose47

            I'm not used to the idea that it woudl be the quiet guy doing quiet things by himself. It's a system shock waiting to happen.

          • Becelec

            As other people have already mentioned, extroverts aren't all being loud and crazy all the time. We like quiet time too. I'll leave my boyfriend to sit on his XBox all afternoon, and I'll go upstairs and read a book, or play on the Playstation. It's not the things that he does in his spare time that is what I find interesting, it's him as a person. His personality is what fascinates me, not his hobbies.

          • Anonymoose47

            Can't say I know how you seperate the two/three between introvert/hobbies/personality

          • enail

            Introvert/extrovert isn't about what activities you enjoy, just which ones are good for charging your batteries and which ones are draining.

            Of course, if you find something draining, you probably spend less time on it, so introverts are likely to have many solitary or small-group hobbies. But they may really enjoy very social activities, they're just things that they have to save up a little more energy to do. Similarly, extraverts may really enjoy a quiet evening alone, but when they need to recharge, they want to spend time with others (although that doesn't need to be in big loud groups, one-on-one time can be invigorating for many extroverts).

            And introverts aren't all the stereotype of shy, reserved, awkward or serious. Me, I'm awkward sometimes and pretty reserved, but not generally shy. People who don't know me well sometimes take me for an extravert because I can be quite assertive. I know someone who's an extravert, but who was quite very shy for much of her life, so it was a big surprise for her to realize that what recharges her batteries is social time.

          • Anonymoose47

            Mostly the introvert stereotype, here.

          • enail

            I wouldn't call you serious 😛

          • Anonymoose47


          • enail

            Hey, did I say that was a bad thing? 😛

            …er, if that sounded like I was saying you ARE awkward etc., I wasn't – those just aren't things I can tell through these here interwebs.

          • Anonymoose47

            Haha, I was ouching at the serious part.

          • Mel_

            Yep. And even shy introverts may behave differently in different contexts. I'm shy around people I don't know. When I'm among friends, I'm very talkative and assertive (and sometimes pretty loud, heh).

          • Anonymoose47

            Yeah, that's true. It'd just be about getting the time to warm up, especially as a guy.

          • Mel_

            You mean warm up to the other person? I think that's why I had so much more success with online dating than dating in person. (Every date I've been on was with a guy I met online–through a dating site, or other online community.) I find it much easier to get comfortable with a person in person if I've already chatted with them some beforehand, so I know we have common interests and what to bring up to keep the conversation going and so on. It lets me do the initial getting-to-know-you stuff without the added pressure of having the person right there in front of me. 🙂

          • Anonymoose47

            Partways that, and partways the expectation that as a guy I should be… leading with confidence more? Making my intentions known? Making a move? Whichever of these things a guy's supposed to be doing. Don't think I'd pull any of that stuff off without knowing a girl better.

          • Becelec

            Those are gender neutral things. Just because you're the guy doesn't mean you have to be the one leading all the time, or making the first move. With my relationship, I've pretty much taken charge of it every step of the way. My boyfriend liked me for ages, but he never did anything about it and I never had a clue. Things didn't take off until I realised that I liked him, and made a move on impulse. That's how I found out he liked me, otherwise I don't know that I would have ever found out, because he assumed that someone as outgoing as me wouldn't be interested in someone as quiet as him.

            Anyway, I think you write yourself off too much. Opposites attract, and you can never assume what a woman is interested in! And we don't always expect men to be confident and making moves all the time! We might still think you're cool anyway.

          • eselle28

            People who like to perform and tell stories often enjoy being around quieter people who listen instead of competing.

            There are also a lot of relationships where people appreciate the other person's differences and learn from them.

          • eselle28

            "No chemistry" speaks for itself.

            When I say, "I don't think we'd make a good couple," I'm usually thinking of incompatible values or lifestyles, or occasionally tastes that are so divergent that I suspect conversation will always be limited to small talk.

          • LeeEsq

            The weird thing is that the women who told me that "I don't think we'd make a good couple" were some of the best dates I've been on. At least from my perspective. We seemed to have complimentary interests. Both women were intelligent. We did have relatively in depth conversations on the date.

          • Mel_

            It may be that during the in-depth conversations they picked up on something about your personality that they could see would not gel with theirs in the long run. I have acquaintances with whom I can have long and animated conversations with when I need to, who have many common interests to me, and who may very well think I enjoy their company a lot, but I don't seek out their company because there are elements of their approach to life or personal philosophies that come out when we're talking and make me uncomfortable. I can still have relatively pleasant interactions with them, but I wouldn't want to see them on a regular basis because then it would be too much.

            The best example I can give from my dating experience was one guy who worked in some high-paying industry (I can't remember what) who I had a "good" conversation with on our first date, but here and there he'd make these remarks that showed he had a materialistic perspective on life. E.g., "Why make it when you can buy it?" That didn't make him a bad person, but it wouldn't gel with my personality at all. I didn't think we were a good fit.

            We can't know what is was that didn't work for the women you met, and it may have been something different for each of them, but it was quite possibly something like that and not a "mistake" you made. Just incompatible elements of your personalities.

          • thesurfmonkey

            Ok, I have all kinds of ideas for you, and maybe you're already doing them, but maybe not, so here you go.

            First, when you're on one of these good dates, how much do you touch each other? Physical touch is a huge part of building chemistry between two people. Now I don't mean you should be pawing her, but if there is zero touch, it could be hindering the chemistry.

            Second, during these dates, do you actually tell the person you like her and you're having a good time? I don't mean in the context of the end of the date saying "we should do this again some time" which can be read as a meaningless social pleasantry. I mean while sitting across the table at dinner you look her in the eye, smile, gently rest your hand on hers (incorporating the touch element) and say "I'm having a really good time. I really like you."

            When you say you come across as flat or emotionless, plus not contacting her for a couple days so you don't seem too eager, it could be that you've inadvertently communicated a lack of interest, which she then used the intervening couple days to rationalize with something like "I don't think he liked me … maybe that's for the best, because maybe it was actually mutual lack of interest … I'm not interested either, there's just no chemistry".

            I would recommend a quick same-night text message saying something like "I had a great time tonight." That way she has a take-away of "he likes me" rather than suspecting "he doesn't like me".

            Next, and this isn't something you said so I'm just guessing. Most women list "sense of humor" as something they want in a man. And most men hear that and think "I have to make her laugh". But I think there are a couple alternative definitions which are just as likely (or more so) and which could come into play for you. The first alternative definition is having a compatible sense of humor, so that if you were trying to pick a movie to see you don't have one person insisting on seeing the Adam Sandler movie and the other person thinking "oh lord anything but Adam Sandler!" No one wants to be in a relationship with the Sandler Divide, so maybe this is something that has happened to you.

            The second alternative interpretation of "wants a man with a sense of humor" is that she wants a man who gets her jokes and thinks she's funny. This one seemed like it could be a problem for you because if a woman makes a joke and you look at her with a deadpan expression and don't laugh or acknowledge that she made a joke or a witty remark, then she could quickly come to feel that there is no chemistry there. No one likes the feeling of making a joke and getting back a blank stare. If you're not a laugher, you could do the verbal joke acknowledgement, like "good one" or "that's funny" or "I see what you did there and I like it" or "nice" or whatever.

          • Delafina

            Well, I have lots of people with whom I've had warm, in-depth conversations that I enjoyed, but I still wouldn't want to date them. Just like everyone with whom I've felt rapport wouldn't necessarily make a good best friend. A lot of things have to click for someone to be a good candidate for a romantic partner. To be a good romantic partner (at least for someone who's looking for a long-term relationship), someone has to be qualified to be a best friend AND good roommate AND seem like they'd be a good sexual partner.

          • LeeEsq

            I understand this but how can I prove that I'd be a good candidate for a romantic partner in the space of one or two hours. It seems an almost herculian task.

          • Trooper6

            That is way too much pressure for a first date.

            A first date is not about proving you are a great candidate for a long term romantic partner. Trying to prove that on a first date is way too much way too fast. That will put too much pressure on you and most likey freak out the woman you are on a date with…and it will also make you seem way more serious than you say you want to be. Mostly you just have to not disqualify yourself for a second date and figure out if she deserves a second date from you.

            You say you don't want to be too serious in the next relationship, so don't be so serious on the date.

          • Mel_

            It isn't something you have to "prove". Clicking with someone, as long as you're doing the basic things right (paying attention to them, directing the conversation to get to know them, smiling and being friendly about it), is more something that just happens. And what might make you a good romantic partner for one person would make you a horrible romantic partner for someone else, because everyone's looking for different things and would be a good fit for different people.

            There is no formula that guarantees if you do X, Y, and Z, any given woman will want a second date with you. We can only give you tips for how to put your best foot forward so you're more likely to meet and click with the women who would be a good fit for you. (And if there's something going on with you that's turning women in general off for some reason, we would tell you, but so far it seems we haven't been able to determine that from anything you've said.)

          • Delafina

            No one should be asking you to prove that. Rather, first dates are about proving negatives. I doubt anyone is expecting to know for sure whether you're a good romantic partner on a first date, but you may be doing something that's disqualifying you.

          • Trooper6

            I have a couple of deal breakers, and on a first date I try to find if my date has some of those deal breakers. So if on our first date I find out that you [insert deal breaker], then I can easily say after one meeting that we wouldn't make a good couple.

          • LeeEsq

            My deal breakers are basically:
            1. Has a crazy work schedule as the norm rather than as a an exception.
            2.Doesn't have any real hobbies or interests besides hanging out with friends.
            3. Doesn't annoy me by saying stupid things or using trite phrases and expressions repeatedly. I recently went on date with a woman that kept responding "this is true" a lot.

            Besides these deal breakers, I'm generally game to try a second date.

          • Trooper6

            Right, and if you went on a date that was going well–at least it seemed so on the surface–and you found your date had one or all of those dealbreakers, you'd probably say something polite like, "I don't think we'd work out."

            I mean I had this great date with this woman and said I didn't think it would work out between us…and I'm sure she thought the date was awesome. But she played with a giant cockroach on the street and was a Republican. So there was going to be no second date…no matter how awesome the date seemed to go.

            So, you might just be triggering some dealbreakers for these women on the first date.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            Is there any more context to her playing with a giant cockroach on the street? I'm having trouble imagining someone just randomly deciding to do that.

          • Trooper6

            I wish there were context that would make that make sense. We had gone to a great Korean place for dinner and were having the post dinner walk where we get to know each other more. It was going along well…and then she sees this giant cockroach on a palm tree…and she goes over there and picks it up and starts playing with it.

            Telling me how much she enjoys playing with them and how they have a remarkably strong grip. I stood by politely and she let it crawl on her for a bit…when she was done she put it back on the tree and then we walked on.

            But I mean, who does that?! Clearly, people who are way more Rock'n'roll than I am. All the chemistry dissolved at that moment.

          • Juuuuuulia

            I have to admit, that sounds like something I might do. =/

          • Gentleman Johnny

            As an example of there being no universal rules, my first thought was "really cool people". Bugs beyond a certain size quick being squicky (to me). I'd rather enjoy a partner who trains fighting grasshoppers or something.

          • eselle28

            Those are reasonable dealbreakers. I'm guessing that you might not have such a fun date with someone who annoyed you or who didn't have any interests, but imagine that you ended up on a date with a woman who mentioned that her job requires her to travel about 50% of the time, and that her hours when she's in town are often irregular. Beyond that, the two of you get along quite well, and you have a nice conversation while you finish your coffee or your drink. You still wouldn't want to go out with her again, though. On her side of things, she probably thinks she went on a good date and is confused why you're not interested.

            The last two times I told someone that we wouldn't make a good couple, we'd also had nice enough conversations. In one case, it meant, "Your stories about your daughter were really sweet, but I'm not up for dating the single father of a toddler, especially not one who has full custody." In the other, it meant, "When you talked about how you dropped out of college because you hated reading, and described what you liked about your current job in purely monetary terms, and talked about how you really enjoyed living in your hometown and being close to your parents, and how you dreamed about settling down and having four or five children, I got a picture of someone whose values and lifestyle were not ever going to be compatible with mine."

          • LeeEsq

            Funny you mention this but I went on dates with two women who worked in advertising and decided not to ask them out again for this reason. One of them even had to spend a significant part of the time outside of the United States because of her job. The other had to do a lot of post-work client schmoozing. I want at least reasonable availability.

            Single-mothers are another deal breaker. I'm not ready to be a father or even honorary uncle yet and I kind of want to raise children of my own blood, yes I realize that this is very traditional.

          • Trooper6

            I gotta say, you are talking really serious and long term for someone who says they want something light and not too serious. If you spend huge amounts of time with this new girlfriend, and insist on that, it is going to get serious…and it is going to send the message that you want something really serious.

            For this light and breezy thing you say you want, you might want to reconsider the no dating women with a busy work schedule. Indeed, a woman who has other things in her life is more likely to be cool with something light and breezy.

            You are sending mixed messages.

          • Mel_

            Agreed. You know, the reason teens and college age people often get into intense, seeing the other person all the time relationships is because the feelings are so relatively new and exciting that they're getting serious really fast. For a long time, I was sure I was going to marry my first boyfriend (who I dated from age 16 to 20). Many people looking back on those relationships can see via hindsight that there wasn't enough solid ground for a really permanent commitment, but in the moment it feels very serious. Light and fun don't really go together with seeing the other person all the time and being super-romantic with each other.

          • Joy

            Parking my agreement here with Trooper6 and Mel. And to piggyback on what Mel is saying, another reason high school and college relationships are so intense is that they are being had by teenagers (or people barely out of their teens). You're probably seeing that other person every single weekday in classes, and maybe in sports or theater or band as well. Your lives are changing fairly rapidly–you may be learning to drive or getting your first job or your first dating relationship or living on your own for the first time. Your hormones and emotions are going a bit haywire. Frankly, that exact type of relationship is a product of its very unique life stage and is just not going to be replicable later in life.

            As someone who had only a handful of dates in high school and college, I do understand the impulse to try to recreate something you missed out on. But I think doing so is only causing you stress and may be hindering you from finding the kind of relationships that are possible now. Which absolutely do not have to be (and should not be!) dull or passionless or tedious. But they will not look or be the same as a high school or college relationship.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            To be fair, another reason for youthful intensity is that they have more free time. Especially at college, its easy for things to accelerate when you're not just dealing with new feelings but have the option of spending 20+ hours a day with your new relationship partner.

          • Mel_

            Yep, but I don't think that changes what I was saying. That seems to be exactly the sort of relationship Lee wants–accelerated, lots of free time spent together–and I think when you are doing that, it's hard for that not to feel serious to both partners pretty quickly. If I was dating now and met a guy I hit it off with so well that we were seeing each other almost every day and doing super romantic things, I'd start thinking about taking it to the next step (say, moving in together) pretty early on. And if the guy then said, "I don't want to rush into anything" I'd have to say, "What do you think we've already been doing?" (And I'd be rather confused, because it would feel like mixed messages.)

          • eselle28

            On the other side of things, if Lee is mostly pursuing women who seem like they'd be up for something a little more casual, I think it would be easy to come off as being too intense or serious or perhaps too fixated on the romance angle. I think may people who want a casual relationship want at least a little bit of a buddy vibe, as well as some sex appeal, and might feel less comfortable with super-romantic things in the early stages.

          • Mel_

            You skipped my question about asking out women you meet via dancing. Is this something you've tried or could try?

          • LeeEsq

            A lot of women that I meet dancing either have boyfriends or husbands, are sufficiently older, or don't like dating in the dance community so they could avoid any potential awkwardness if the relationship doesn't work out because the dance scene is small enough that you'll meet the same people again and again even if you live in big city like NYC. A surprisingly large amount of people of dance, as a job or hobby, are in relationships with people who don't dance at all. I've met maybe only a few couples that have met dancing. It seems that hooking up with people who meet dancing isn't really that popular. Its kind of how a lot of people don't want to date people that they work with.

          • Mel_

            Interesting. It seems to be somewhat different here. My brother, who's a little younger than you, is a Latin dance instructor and also regularly goes out dancing at clubs, and of his last three girlfriends, two he met through the studio where he teaches (not his own students, which is frowned upon) and one he met at a club. And he's actually kind of awkward with women, and is also picky about who he dates, so it's not like he's putting the moves on every single woman out there.

            I think the way it worked for him was he got to know the women he ended up dating gradually by chatting with them now and then when he'd run into them, and so when he asked them out, they were already into him enough that they were willing to take the risk of future awkwardness. And maybe the dance scene here is larger than NYC.

            I still think it's worth getting to know the women you meet that way, because maybe you'll really hit it off with someone, and at very least you might make a few friends who may not be open to dating you, but could give you pointers from a woman's perspective about whether there's anything you're doing that's interfering with building chemistry with people.

          • LeeEsq

            I'm not really a fan of the getting to know women gradually for several reasons. First, a lot of the women of appropriate age that I know are already in committed relationships. Another reason is that I've attempted this strategy several times only to be rejected in favor of somebody they knew for a shorter amount of time than me. The one time I've done this successfully; the actual relationship ended fizzling up very fast. This strategy also takes to long, I knew my ex for five years before we started dating. I'd prefer something thats much faster moving. I'm tired of feeling that I'm in a traffic jam on the relationship highway while others are on the express tract.

          • Mel_

            I wasn't suggesting using it specifically as a dating strategy. Just, if there are women that you're meeting anyway, you may as well be friendly with them. (Maybe you are anyway, so this doesn't apply. My point is being friendly would be better than assuming there's no point in talking with them at all because they must be either attached or uninterested in dating people in the scene.)

          • LeeEsq

            By the first sentence, I don't mean that I do not want to get to know a woman. I just really don't want to have to go through every phase from strange to acquaintance to friend to close friend before getting to the romantic relationship level. This never really works for me and I tend to get viewed as a heterosexual version of a gay friend. I want it to be clear that the interest is romantic and sexual from the start.

          • Mel_

            I guess I think there's some room between going through "every phase" and making it clear you have romantic interest from the start. I think you could become an acquaintances with someone, just by seeing them around and chatting for ten or fifteen minutes each time, without having to make any romantic interest overt, and then ask them out after a few or several of those brief conversations. In fact, I think that's how a lot of relationships form outside of online dating. Many people rarely ask out total strangers, but do ask out people they know a little.

            Like I said, if you already are friendly acquaintances with the dance scene women you run into, what I'm saying doesn't apply. I'm merely saying you have more chance of finding someone who clicks with you if you get to know the women around you a little (emphasis on "a little"–as opposed to completely steering clear of them), regardless of whether you can immediately tell you'd want to/could ask them out.

          • Gentleman Johnny

            Agreed on the phase thing. I've found that its entirely possible to express interest when you reach the level of acquaintances where you can go for coffee or fast food after whatever hobby you share. They may be interested too, in which case great. If they're not, there's still enough distance that unless you have a crushing case of oneitis it'll be easy to transition back to the coffee date level of friendship and talking about your lives. Since they know you're actively looking, such acquaintances aren't so much rejections as friends who can help expand your social circle to find someone who is interested.

          • Becelec

            Plus a lot of women are more receptive to going on a date with someone that they already know. It gives them a chance to get to know you without any of the pressure of a date and so by the time you get to the actual date they're already relaxed and most likely have a good idea that they'll probably want to see you again, compared to cold dates where the chances of it not working out are much higher. It doesn't mean that you have to become BFFs for life, just more getting to know each other a little away from all the pressure of dating.

          • eselle28

            There are pluses and minuses to both kinds of dating. The advantage to dating women who you know at least a little beforehand (you certainly don't need to know them for 5 years, a handful of conversations is enough) is that they will already be familiar with your mannerisms and may also be more patient if a first date doesn't go perfectly. Things go faster and are less ambiguous on online dates, but as you've seen, people also tend to be very quick to decide things won't work, since they have little investment in the other person.

            I wouldn't suggest dating women from other areas of your life "instead of" online dating, but as an addition to it. At the very least, I think it might be helpful to try to meet and introduce more single women to your social circle, since it sounds like you're spending a lot of time socializing with couples.

        • Mel_

          I agree with eselle–I don't understand why you wouldn't be able to "pull off" seeming interested in the person you're talking to as an individual. Basically any question you ask that's not totally generic works toward that goal. You can ask anyone "So what do you do for a living?" or "What are your hobbies?", sure, but as soon as they say, "I'm a nurse" or "I love to sing", you can start asking things like, "What made you go into nursing? What sort of patients do you work with?" or "Are you in a band or choir? What sort of music?" which you could only ask that specific person, not just anyone. And the more you get to know about them, the more individual interest you can show.

          As I noted above, you should be able to even skip the first step when you're meeting women from online dating sites, because presumably you know a lot of the most basic info from their profiles and your initial email conversation, so when you meet in person you can go straight to bringing up topics you know are specifically relevant to each person. I actually find this the easiest way to start a conversation with someone I'm meeting in person the first time–referencing the things I already know about them, like an author I know we both like, or a hobby we share or that I'm curious to know more about–so it's hard to imagine it'd be easier to talk about things that are totally general instead.

          And if you don't find anything specific about a given woman interesting enough to actually show interest when talking about those topics… then you're asking out the wrong women.

    • Akai

      You know, this might be easier if you (and your therapist) could really examine your date behavior. While this would be INCREDIBLY unethical (not to mention detrimental to your chances) to do on a real date, it might be worthwhile to suggest you do a mock-date and do a video recall session with your therapist to pinpoint specific behaviors (dissociation etc.) to work on.

  • LeeEsq

    Another thought on desperation, I think its important to remember a couple things if you feel lonely and are surrounded by apparently happy couples. You really don't know if the couples in question are really happy. A lot of couples like to present themselves as happy in public even if they really are miserable. There might be all sorts of problems that the couple isn't revealing like a bad sex life or what not. The other thing is that people lie about their sex lives, a lot. So when people are boasting about their sex lives it doesn't mean that they are telling the truth. Things are often not like they seem and a happy front might reflect inner sadness.

    • Mel_

      This is very true, and it's great that you recognize it. 🙂 Most people's lives are going to look "better" than yours simply because they're mainly going to show you the good parts and hide the bad, whereas you know all the parts of yours.

  • Jimothy

    it's been really hard to read this post! every time the words "that special someone" appears, I keep hearing Niko Bellic in my head:
    I hear many voices in my head…

  • GernBlanston

    Doctor NerdLove has noted his belief in the efficacy of self affirmations a number of times. As far as I'm aware, the jury is at least still out and at most contradicts this belief. For example, a Canadian study from 2009 showed that affirmations have little effect on high self-esteem individuals and potentially negative effects for those with low self-esteem.

    This was widely reported not long ago. Has the study been debunked? Is anyone aware of newer information?

    • I can't say I have, but the results of the study fit my personal experience with affirmations.

      Mindlessly repeating "I feel confident I feel confident I feel confident" or whatever, never did s**t for me. I sometimes felt worse after because i didn't feel more confident. Another phenomenon I noticed is that my brain would sometimes "push back" either with counterexamples or kind of an 'emotional resistance,' this wordless "I don't believe you."

      If I went into it trying to actually FEEL confident instead of just saying it, remembering times I felt confident, etc. it seemed to stick a bit better.

      Even then, I don't think that stuff alone helps as much as people hope. You occaisionally read something like "your brain can't tell the difference between reality and what you visualize" but that's vastly oversimplified. Our brains are brains for a reason–they recognize bullshit.

      I think affirmations work best in concert with actual practice and experience and building evidence to support the belief you're trying to instill in yourself.

      • Christine

        I've found that untrue affirmations such as saying "I feel confident" when I don't feel confident backfire for me. This is similar to what has been shown in some of the studies. What works for me is saying something that is true, such as "I'm working to become more confident" [if I actually AM doing something about it]. I recommend a very old book called "The Power of Your Subconscious Mind." Very old, but it's been in print forever. Main thing I learned is not EVER to say "I can't" but to say "I'm working on…" It's made a big difference in my life. The book is really funny to read because it's written in a very old-fashioned style.

      • Mel_

        I think, like Christine suggests, the best way to use affirmations is to remind one's self of the positive things that are true. A lot of insecure people go through life with a little voice constantly running through their mind reminding them of all their mistakes and embarrassments. So you replace that as much as possible by affirming the good things about yourself. What do you have in your life that's good? What *do* you like about yourself? What are you good at? Making a point of thinking about those things regularly can help shut up the voice that says you're never good enough.

        • Mike

          I think it's a person-to-person thing. The therapist I saw for awhile wanted me to do all kinds of self-affirmations. The whole thing felt childish to me and never had any impact… because I didn't believe any of it was actually true.

          Now that I *do* believe that I have awesome qualities, I don't need self-affirmations. I know I'm awesome, why do I need to tell myself that I am?

          • Mel_

            You definitely have to find the way that works best for you. I find even though I'm pretty confident, I still use them in specific situations, e.g., I'm nervous in social situations, and I'll remind myself that most people I talk to seem to like me and want to talk to me again, and that I know I'm a supportive and caring person, so there's no reason to think I'd going to come off badly, and that does ease the anxiety. Or if I'm stressed about work, reminding myself that I've dealt with similar things before and come out fine often helps me calm down.

          • SarahGryph

            I trained myself years ago to think to myself "bless and release" when I was overthinking something or letting anxiety get to me. (Especially repetitive thoughts about things I can't actually change bc they are in the past or worrying about a future that I have no proof of; things like that.) I didn't really feel like it helped much at first, I think I just did it because why not try. I realized a few weeks ago that I was automatically thinking that to myself during a bad day at work. While the words didn't magically fix things, they DID make me pause to remember WHY I'd made myself start that habit in the first place. It gave me just enough pause to start actually calming my brain. For me at least, just the words may not seem to do much but if I can program myself to at least think the words; sometimes they become a trigger for constructive thought on the topic.

          • SarahGryph

            Also, bc this kinda connects in my own head at least: One of my clearest memories of Army Basic was a morning that one DS; rather than lead us all in the normal marching jodie…led us all in one where the majority was "It's alright, it's ok…it's alright, it's alright, it's alright…" I sometimes find myself humming or quietly singing that to myself now, something like 11 years later. And when I realize what I'm humming, it's a similar deal; the words don't make everything ok but it prods my brain into more constructive thinking. I sometimes hate the "oh don't worry, everything will be ok" response to stress but that specific thing is planted in my mind so well by now that somehow it does work. At least to make me feel a bit better.

    • Gentleman Johnny

      They're affirmations, not magic spells. Repeating to yourself "I believe I'll get rich" doesn't make you rich and studies do in fact confirm that this sort of thing has a (statistically slight) negative impact rather than a positive one. However, repeating to yourself "I have no problem introducing myself to new people" may or may not make you better at approaching people. What it will do is make you approach people more often which gives you more opportunity to get better at dealing with people. Even if you don't believe it at first, once you say it to yourself, you're telling yourself to act on it. The affirmations are there to kind of prod yourself into taking action towards your goal.

      • Tosca

        I've found affirmations work best with basic-level stuff. Nothing extravagant, like "I will be rich and famous!" or "I've got 18 charisma!"

        More like "I deserve basic respect, and that is not ok", "No, they are not all judging you, they don't even know you", "I can do this (task)". "X does not make you a failure". Stuff to counter negative thoughts/bring myself back to reality.

        Hey, I'm not perfect, it doesn't always work. But most of the time, a swift kick in the mental ass works wonders.

        • Gentleman Johnny

          I wouldn't have thought of all of those as affirmations but yes, those are great.

  • Juuuuuulia

    Challenge: tell me some analytically-based topics and I'll rephrase them as questions. ^_^

  • Juuuuuulia

    I definitely agree that analysis-related discussion are more interesting. But in my defense! None of those questions are a complete analysis (obviously) but I feel like a lot of them ARE jumping-off topics to lead into conversations with people that haven't necessarily formulated a complete analysis in their head yet. That doesn't mean they don't have thoughts of substance!

    For example, I thought Gryffindor winning the House Cup at the end of Book One was absolutely horrible because it teaches tiny children that it's not enough to save everyone from the Dark Lord unless you get to be popular as well and publically humiliate baddie Slytherins (who technically won by the rules) that you don't like in the process. I thought it was terrible writing and completely destroying her credibility about good messages about bravery and morality because she was teaching children that heroes automatically get social rewards, which is horrible and not true. Not to mention they broke a bunch of school policies while battling the dude, etc etc. T_T

    But I wouldn't just launch into that rant at a person! I would say "Hey, did you think them winning the House Cup at the end of was sort of contrived?" And if they said "Iono, not really?" I would maybe summarize it in one sentence. And then go into detail depending on how they responded? And change the subject otherwise? Stuff.

  • I liked the specific tips in this piece, but I wanted to throw out a caution that I wish I'd understood better when I started improving my love life.

    The No-Neediness Meme has gotten into the consciousness of both men and women, and I've noticed that it is really easy to overcorrect and try to become The Guy/Gal With No Needs.

    One example is the person who never needs anyTHING–telling people what I want or how I expect to be treated is needy, so I'll accept anything (or nothing).

    Or there's the person who never needs anyONE–showing weakness or uncertainty, backing down, admitting fault, or saying I'm sorry/I missed you is showing you need people, so I'm going to keep the walls up and keep everybody out.

    • Mel_

      That's very true. In my second major relationship, I was very much trying to be the "cool girlfriend" who wasn't phased by or judgmental about anything, and because of that I put up with things that would now make me run for the hills a lot longer than was healthy.

      I think that's part of why it's so important to be at least somewhat confident in yourself when you're on your own, before you get into a relationship. If you believe you're a generally reasonable and good person, you're a lot less likely to be over-needy (trying to get the other person to validate you because you don't believe in yourself) or to be too un-needy (you believe that the things you want to be happy in a relationship are valid and you have a right to ask for them or break up if you can't get them). It's when you're not sure you can trust your own judgement that you tend to run into issues one way or the other (or both).

    • eselle28

      This is a very good point. Like many things, there's a middle road here, and the overcorrection can be as bad as the original problem.

    • Tosca

      Very true. I can only speak for the woman side of things, but there can be a lot of pressure to be "cool", "low-drama" and "open-minded". Especially the anti-drama one, it seems to crop up in geek circles a LOT. Like simply defining a boundary or stating your needs politely means you're "dramatic".

      That pressure CAN be why some nice ladies seem to put up with assholishness for longer than they should. They feel like if they state their needs or defend themselves, even mildly, the guy will flip out. And from Mel and Sarah's stories, those fears are not unfounded.

      It can be an age thing, too. I've noticed more young women trying to be "cool" than older. As you age, you put up with far less bullshit as a general rule. That's probably why older women are so unattractive to *certain* types of men. ;P

      • Anonymoose47

        I think the guy equivalent is having to be in control and don't show too much emotional vulnerbility or she'll lose interest in you (she wants a man, after all. If she wanted another woman, she'd get one instead). Be the rock for her emotional tempest.

        • enail

          And like for women, as they get older, I think guys more comfortable expressing their emotions and less willing to put up with women who aren't okay with them having normal human feelings.

          Also, I highly recommend against dating anyone who is an emotional tempest. Being a rock is no fun.

          • Anonymoose47

            Seems like it's almost expected. Especially from the Marilyn Monroe quote crowd. "If you can't handle me at my worst…" etc.

          • enail

            Everyone has bad times, emotional times, and some people are more expressive than others. But emotional tempest makes it sound like they have no ability to handle their own emotions and expect that the people around them should drop everything to tend to them. I'd steer away from people like that. Also, from people in general who believe that women are emotional tempests and men are rocks. Neither sounds at all fun to be around.

          • Mel_

            Agreed. If it seems to you that this is expected, seriously, it's the people you're around, not the world. I've never in my life heard anyone quote that Marilyn Monroe line, and none of my female friends, even when we were young and immature, ever expressed that a guy they dated needed to put up with them being an emotional tempest (in those words or others). Mainly because we were all pretty emotionally stable people in the first place, as a great many women are.

          • enail

            That said, it's totally true that guys tend to be socialized not to show too much emotion or vulnerability, and I think that makes it harder for many guys to deal with things like sadness, hurt and depression. In general, women are more likely to be comfortable acknowledging that something's wrong, talking about it with friends, seeing a therapist, openly taking some time to be nice to yourself. I think this is changing, though.

          • Mel_

            Very true. I think that's one of the most obvious ways that the patriarchal system is harmful to men too, but it does seem to be slowly changing.

          • Mel_

            And actually, I think it's worth noting that guys aren't socialized not to show too much emotion, they're socialized not to show too much of certain kinds of emotion. It's ridiculous to me that yelling and throwing things at the TV or driving around cheering and honking over the performance of a sports team is considered totally normal behavior, but crying because something awful happened to you is being over-emotional.

          • enail

            Great point! I saw an interesting article about this in debating the other day.

          • Trooper6

            Side note: I don't date people who expect me to handle them. I date people who can handle themselves.

        • Vic

          I call it "bemused aloofness." And it words wonders on women.

          • Vic


          • Mel_

            Some women, maybe. If a guy acted bemused in response to me being deeply upset about something, that was a guy I had no interest in being around any more.

          • Anonymoose47

            For women who use their emotions as a weapon or a tool to get what they want, I could see it.

          • thesurfmonkey

            Do you mean bemused as in "bewildered or confused" (definition 1) or as in "lost in thought; preoccupied" (definition 2)?

          • Mel_

            Hmmm, didn't realize there were so many different definitions. When I hear "bemused" used, it's usually meaning the third definition listed here: "To cause to have feelings of wry or tolerant amusement."

            I would have issues with a guy responding like that, but if Vic actually meant confused or lost in thought, that's not so bad. (Though it would still be insulting to act confused and aloof when your partner is upset about something that you do actually understand.)

          • enail

            I have the vague idea that, until recently, the first two definitions were the only correct ones, and the third has recently become acceptable b/c that's how people use it, b/c that's what it SOUNDS like it should mean and it's a damn useful meaning.

            Now, if only facetious would undergo the same shift.

          • Anonymoose47

            Thinking about it, it may be an attractive trait for women with less emotional stability… they don't have to worry about a guy getting caught up in something they'll regret later, they can feel less guilt and don't have to apologize because he didn't get drawn into it, and the guy is "strong" enough to handle them.

          • Mel_

            Yeah, but I don't see how that's specific to women. Wouldn't that also be a good strategy for women dealing with a male partner who's not very emotionally stable?

            Part of the problem with Vic's suggestion is it plays into the stereotype that women have a much greater tendency to be unstable than men… but I've met plenty of unstable men in my life. Men just tend to get less criticism for it because a guy getting angry or aggressive is seen as normal (or even a show of dominance) whereas women are "bitchy"/"crazy" if they start fights or make demands, even when the anger and/or demands in both cases are equally unreasonable.

          • Anonymoose47

            I think a good strategy for a woman dealing with a mentally unstable male is to get the hell out ASAP.

          • Mel_

            As thesurfmonkey pointed out, that's probably the idea solution for a man dealing with an unstable woman, too. If someone's making unreasonable demands and getting angry over the slightest thing, that's not a healthy relationship no matter which way the genders go.

          • Anonymoose47

            The sex and/or the post-blowup affection might be worth it.

          • Mel_

            Sure. For either gender. Again, I'm not seeing how this is a gendered thing.

          • Anonymoose47

            An unstable guy makes me think "domestic violence" more than an unstable woman does.

          • Mel_

            And that's exactly where the stereotype comes in. A guy is often only considered "unstable" when he gets to the point of threatening (or acting out) physical violence. A woman is often considered unstable if she simply gets upset about anything that's not an emergency.

            There are lots of guys who are unstable without threatening physical violence. There are lots of guys who are emotionally manipulative. Talking about it as if this is something specific to women encourages the stereotype that women are generally unstable, overly emotional beings who need guidance from more logical people to keep them in line. Which is really offensive.

          • Anonymoose47

            My old best friend was (and probably still is) one of those manipulative guys. It may just be as a guy, I knew I could just drive him one in the face (which I did once or twice) or easily cut all contact (which I eventually did period) and problem's solved. I won't solve woman problems the first way, and she can still damage you in the eyes of other women the second way. There's more incentive to hang back and figure out a woman's behaviour.

          • Mel_

            More incentive for you as a guy. I'll point out that for a woman, if a guy's being emotionally manipulative, she's not going to punch him in the face (unless she's not afraid to being hit back), and she might very well be worried he'd tell other guys in their social circle negative things about her if she cut him off abruptly. And as a woman, if another woman was acting emotionally unstable with me, I'd just stop hanging out with her without any worries.

            We treat friends and acquaintances differently than possible or present romantic interests, again, regardless of gender.

          • Anonymoose47

            Yep, I agree with that.

            Though I'd say the guys in his social circle are much less likely to listen to him.

          • Mel_

            And most women will clue in to the fact that a woman in their midst is unstable/manipulative and are less likely to listen to her, too.

            If a woman acts overly demanding and possessive, and then complains to her friends about the guy, and the friends agree that the guy was wrong, then the friends are probably demanding and possessive too, so not having them be interested isn't really a bad thing. 😉 Jerky people tend to hang out with other jerky people, and not-jerky people tend to avoid them.

          • thesurfmonkey

            Huh. My internal grammar police/English teacher voice insists that "bemused" is not a synonym for "amused", but if Merriam Webster says it is, then it looks like the language has moved on. Oh, those descriptivists.

            I think that no matter which definition of bemused is meant, the acting aloof when a woman is upset with you is a dick move meant to indicate that her feelings don't matter to you.

          • Mel_

            Well, if the person's upset in a way that's needy or unreasonable–like flipping out because you called a whole five minutes later than you said you would, or because one day a week you want to hang out with your friends instead of going on a date–then I think you're probably better off acting aloof than getting emotionally engaged (regardless of the other person's gender). But as a general solution to every time a woman is upset, definitely a dick move.

          • Anonymoose47

            It'd definitely be what I would go to first until I knew the woman better.

          • Mel_

            Wait, so if you didn't know a woman well, you'd assume no matter what she was upset about, it's probably unreasonable? How is that fair? Why not judge based on listening to what she's upset about rather than how well you know her?

            Frankly, most women are too polite and adverse to confrontation to get upset at a guy they don't know well unless they have a really good reason to be upset. Unstable people tend to show their instability most when they're with people they already feel comfortable with.

          • Anonymoose47

            My mom is one of those unreasonable types, so yeah, my first reaction to a woman I don't know too well (or, in response to the second paragraph, someone who just hasn't done it to me yet) getting upset wouldn't be to react to it too strongly.

          • Mel_

            Okay, there's a different between not reacting too strongly and being totally aloof. I mean, if the woman's upset because you nearly ran her over or because someone just stole her wallet or something like that, surely you wouldn't be all "Oh well, no big deal" just because you didn't know her well?

            And a reasonable person is able to recognize that just because they have one role model for a certain type of behavior, they shouldn't assume all other people of the same category behave the same way. My dad's arrogant, but I don't assume any time a guy I don't know well tells me something, that he's being an arrogant know it all. I only think that if the guy in question is, y'know, actually acting arrogant. It's really not that hard to pay attention to what a specific person is doing and saying.

          • Anonymoose47

            It can be when your social skills and cues aren't as good as the normal person's :p

          • Mel_

            It's not about reading subtle cues. A woman who's upset is usually going to be saying overtly what she's upset about. All you have to do is listen. Is it something you can understand being upset about, or would be upset about if it happened to you? Judge based on that.

            And if a person's upset but can't bother to tell you what they're upset about, then yeah, that's their problem and I'd be standoffish about that too.

          • Anonymoose47

            I know it's a stereostype, but I've seen it with my mom, she'll get mad at my dad or someone for one reason, then continue getting mad about every little thing afterwards, especially if he reacts to it. That's what I'd be watching out for.

          • enail

            Again, this is a some people thing, not just a women thing.

          • Mel_

            What enail said. And it's perfectly fair to watch out for behavior you've seen in the past. What isn't fair is to assume someone's misbehaving *before* they've actually done anything unreasonable. It's like the difference between a woman watching out for signs that a guy doesn't respect her boundaries vs. a woman assuming all men who talk to her are rapists.

          • Anonymoose47

            It may not be fair, but it's a preference to avoid that kind of behaviour vs. potentially become part of it just because I was just trying to be fair.

          • Mel_

            So should women assume all men are rapists to avoid the few who are, rather than waiting to disengage when they actually see a warning sign?

            I just can't imagine that you're running into other people getting upset unreasonably so often that you need to be immediately on guard for it. No one's saying there's anything wrong with disengaging the moment you see someone actually being unreasonable. But if their concerns before *were* reasonable, then I'm not sure how it hurts you to have been a "part of it" before the unreasonableness started, any more than it hurts a woman to have been part of a friendly conversation with a guy before he does something sketchy.

            If you treat people like their feelings don't matter all the time, regardless of what they're upset about, you're going to come off as a jerk–and if you only do it to women, you'll look like a sexist jerk. If you don't mind looking like a jerk, then I guess that's okay.

          • Anonymoose47

            Doesn't creeper spider-sense mean that half of the job is to prove that you're not going to rape her anyways?

          • Mel_

            I'm not sure how that relates. A guy proves to a woman that he's not a threat by respecting her responses. A woman proves she's upset for a good reason by telling you a good reason for being upset. The problem is when you dismiss the other person as a threat or unreasonable without even paying attention to what they're doing.

            Like enail said, you can decide to hang out with whoever you want. That has nothing to do with fairness. But it wouldn't be fair if a woman came to you with a legitimate complaint and you dismissed her out of hand simply because she's female and upset.

          • enail

            Ha! I should have known Mel_ would say what I didn't know I wanted to say 🙂

          • enail

            I was really hoping someone else would say something about this, b/c I think there's something to be said here (aside from the fact that women are no more likely to overreact or be manipulative than men, while men are more likely to rape women than women are) but I'm not really able to articulate it. So I'm just going to bumble around on this.

            From the perspective of a man trying to meet women, it's a sensible approach to assume you need to give her reason to think you're not a rapist. But that doesn't mean that the woman is actually sitting there thinking "Chances are, that dude's a rapist." It's more that she's got a mostly-subconscious radar out for some warning signs. I don't think I'm explaining the difference well, b/c it's not something I've really analyzed consciously, but I do think there's a difference.

            If anyone wants to continue discussing this, we should probably take it to the forums, though, 'cause I think Dr. Nerdlove will murder us if we start another 'creeper' discussion here.

          • enail

            Fair is pretty irrelevant to deciding if you want to spend time with someone or not, everyone should get to choose who to seek out and who to avoid regardless of whether their criteria are fair, so in that sense that's cool.

            But it seems like if you just avoid anyone who ever gets upset about anything and is female, you will pretty much be limited to interacting with men (and female robots), so if you'd like to interact with women sometimes, you may need to refine your criteria a little. And if you ever need to interact with women, regardless of whether you want to or not, you'll probably have an easier time if you can stop thinking them as monolithic, manipulative emotional tempests.

            It's no bad thing to be aware of stuff you're not okay with putting up with, though.

          • Anonymoose47

            I don't interact with them IRL anyways, so there's not much different there either way.

          • enail

            And what are us online women, chopped liver? 😛

          • Anonymoose47

            Clogged tubes. :p

            No, online's just a much different, more anonymous and less-pressure socializing tool than IRL.

            If we were sitting around in the same place IRL, we would likely not be talking to eachother at all.

          • enail

            Maybe not, but I think it's cool that we are, here, so it would be a shame if not.

            I agree that online's a very different and lower-pressure environment, but does that really mean that you think all the female-type people you're talking with here would be unreasonable and over-emotional in person? It's only the precious tubes of the interwebs keeping our feminine hysteria in check??

          • Anonymoose47

            I know I certainly would be too nervous to initiate any kind of conversation, so it's likely not.

            I think chances are that some of them are, but you'd have to get upset in such a way that it's extremely obvious before I could see if it's unreasonable or not. :p

          • Mel_

            Heh, to be honest, the most overboard emotional reactions I've seen here have been from guys. "OMG, you said I shouldn't talk to women on public transit, why do you hate men and think they should be alone forever!!1!" and so on. And sadly that's only a slight exaggeration. 😉

          • Juuuuuulia

            Lies! We would all be singing songs and dancing around in a circle.

          • Anonymoose47

            ^— Definitely upset. Definitely hysterical.

          • Juuuuuulia

            Happy songs! Happy circle!

          • enail


            er, sorry, I don't know where that hulk came from…

          • Anonymoose47

            Seems reasonable.

          • enail


          • Trooper6

            I'm currently imagining a whole circle of Hulks in tutus with long diaphanous scarves singing folk song ballads and making flow-y arm movements as they dance around a fire with flowers in their hair.

            There is a lot of stomping.

          • enail

            Probably a lot of scarves being set on fire too.

            Flaming scarves are the best kind.

          • enail

            I'd say that the less confident you are at reading people, the more it pays to go in without relying on stereotypes. B/c if you have trouble reading cues, you might miss things that indicate that the individual doesn't conform to the stereotype. And there's nothing people hate more than being treated as a stereotype, especially if it's a pretty dismissive and insulting one.

          • thesurfmonkey

            Ah, see, that's the thing. If they're flipping out about totally unreasonable things, then I don't think I'd stop at "aloof". I'd take that train all the way to the break-up station, because who needs that kind of hassle in their life.

            I suspect that Vic meant it as a general solution to every time a woman is upset, based on some of his other comments on other posts here. Because that's how they did it in the caveman days (or some such evo-psych nonsense.)

          • Mel_

            Yeah, I know. I've just found that if you aren't totally covering all the bases in your comments, certain commenters will come in and say things like, "So you're saying every time a woman's upset, you have to respect that? Even if it's totally unreasonable? Rant rant rant." So I tend to make a point of acknowledging if there are (rare) situations when the comment isn't offensive, just to head that off. 😛

  • Trooper6

    Okay, I noticed that you seem to have a black/white thing going on upthread: "things you are interested in" on the one hand and "small talk that is confusing and stupid on the other." This sends up a red flag. The "I have to fight to be heard if other people talk" is the second red flag. This post here is the third.

    You don't understand why questions like the above would be interesting.
    All of those questions are ways to engage with the other person and get to know about them. Do you not care what your conversation partner likes or dislikes? What they think about the book?
    You say you are more interested in analytically based…but does that mean that you just steamroll the other person with your ideas and what you think without ever making any effort to see what they think about things? Does it mean you are more interested in saying what your thoughts are than hearing what other people think?

    This brings me to the small talk. I wonder if you consider engaging with people generally "small talk?" Because that could be a problem.

    You might want to think about your conversational and listening skills. It doesn't have to be either/or. Some extreme where you are talking all the time or you are being fake/saying nothing/pretending to care when you don't.

    But here is the larger thing I want to say. You often say things like: "What if I just AM this way." But no one is static. We change every day. Our cells die off and are reborn giving us new bodies all the time. We are constantly in motion and interacting with people and things, and every interaction changes us. You can become a better and different you and still be you.

    • Juuuuuulia

      That's why I wanted to actually try taking some topic suggestions and turning them into a question or series of questions! Because I wanted to show that it can be done! It's something you can learn and get good at with practice!

    • Corsair

      Changing doesn't necessarily means that you are no longer yourself. Most people will change anyway, so we can direct our changes to what we actually want to be. You know, become a "better version of yourself", or something.
      I believe everytime we learn something new we change a bit. We also change when we make new friends, and when we make mistakes, and as we get in contact with different perspectives. Some people are more malleable than others, but like Trooper6 said, no one is static.
      It's not easy to deliberately change ourselves, but it can be done. Some people in some cases might need some help to become what they want (I definitely did). The first step is to decide you really want to change – if you don't really want to, then of course you don't have to.

    • I care about what my conversation partner likes and dislikes, but only so long as it's…. pertinent? I think I mentioned this somewhere else, that I engage in conversation to figure the other person out. I get a lot more out of "deep" conversations. I just…. don't see the point of knowing if my friend thinks Qudditich is stupid.
      I think it's, I like knowing people's opinions, but primarily about things we can analyze together. It's not the information-sharing that bonds me to something, it's shared analysis.
      So if someone just tells me they like Quidditch…. um, okay, that's nice. But if they tell me they don't like it because they considered the game lop-sided in terms of scoring that it gave an unfair advantage to certain teams, now THAT'S something we can dig into.

      But in order to GET to that sort of analysis, I have to really, really dig at a person, because in my experience most people don't like analyzing. They just want to like what they do, and dislike what they don't.

      So if I go down the road of asking information-gathering questions to try to get to analysis questions, I find myself asking a LOT of questions and really having to drag the horse to water, which gets exhausting after a while. And if I don't do it JUST right, people get annoyed at me for asking so many questions and probing them. Given all that, I think I've developed an aversion to these sorts of questions, because I just do.not. have the mental energy to work so hard so I myself can enjoy the conversation.

      At this point, I probably don't listen very well. But I think this isn't out of lack of ability, just resentment and hostility towards the idea. For 4-6 months, I did absolutely nothing but listen and ask questions. I didn't offer any information about myself, I ventured no opinions, I didn't off-branch into different topics…. I made the conversation entirely about the other person and what they wanted to talk about.

      It kinda-sorta seemed to work… people seemed to find me less annoying…. but they also NEVER asked questions back. They never sought to satisfy me in the exchange. It was about them, and only about them.

      That's what I mean by fighting to be heard. It seems like in order to have friends, I have to completely cater to them, but no one ever returns the favor. I don't think friendships should be charities; I think I am allowed to be a *little* selfish in friendships, that I SHOULD get to occasionally talk and be catered to as well.

      So it really DOES seem like my choices are to either have no friends, or exist in friendships where I (as an individual) am invisible.

      • Mel_

        I'll say again, I think you really are just friends with the wrong people. There are lots of people who enjoy analyzing the things they like and who'll happily talk about that without lots of probing questions to draw their opinions out of them. I know tons of people I can analyze books with, for example. The problem is that you're trying to have conversations with people who don't like having the same kinds of conversations you do, not that there's something inherently flawed about the kind of conversations you enjoy.

        One of the hallmarks of geekdom is a deep enthusiasm for the things one is geeky about, which frequently expresses itself in a desire to talk about those things in detail and depth. Maybe you need to find geekier circles to hang out in?

        • Thinking over it the last day, I still think the problem may be me…. I think I'm too geeky for non-geeky social circles, but not geeky enough for other social circles. One circle of friends loves videogames-just like me-but they can go on and on and on in a way that I can't contribute to, so I just end up sitting there twiddling my thumbs.

          I have a lot of "intellectual" interests, but I am not smart enough for graduate school, so I find myself being too analytical for everyday folks, but not intelligent enough for academics. So…. where do all of us geeky-but-not-fully-geeky people fit?

          • enail

            Notice how you said "all of us…" There are a lot of people like that. They might not have a label, but that doesn't mean you're alone in that.

          • Mel_

            Hmmm… I kind of know what you mean–I don't often go to fan conventions or traditionally geeky meet-up groups because I don't feel like I'm "into" anime or various TV shows or video games enough to fit in and feel I'm contributing something. But I end up getting to discuss those topics with people in depth because I'm in the writing community, and fellow writers tend to enjoy talking about story regardless of what form the story took.

            Do you have any things you like to *do* that relate to your intellectual interests? Like, writing or reviewing books if you're into literature, or volunteering for political campaigns if you're into politics, or whatever? I think if you could find people who are actively immersing themselves in the areas you're interested in, they're a lot more likely to enjoy talking in depth about those topics, outside a specifically academic arena.

          • SarahGryph

            Maybe it's just me but it sounds to me like you're putting this problem outside of your control. "Oh it's just me, just the way I am, clearly no one gets me." I understand feeling like that but making it a statement really limits you and may be preventing you from finding a way to change the situation you're not happy with. Another feeling I understand but isn't very productive is considering yourself "too analytical for everyday folks." I've felt the same way when I want to analyze characterization in my favorite book with someone who just wants to talk about how the ending was cool (lol) but you run a risk of being a bit pretentious if you think that way too much. Seems like you've got a lot of black and white thinking, and are not seeing the gray areas in between as viable options. People may also be sensing that you categorize them as "smart" or "not smart" which isn't comfy for the person being categorized?

      • enail

        I really think you need to seek out friends with whom you have more in common, rather than trying to drag the people you know kicking and screaming into the kind of conversation you like. Look for academic or nerdy types.

        Still, even with people who enjoy deep analysis, you might need to practice having balanced conversations, as it sounds like you might come across a little aggressive or uninterested.

        • Welll… I AM uninterested, sometimes. Just like they're uninterested in a lot of things I have to say. Am I supposed to fake being interested? Could you please explain how I come across as aggressive?

          • enail

            No, I don't think you should fake being interested, per se, but you might need to cultivate the skill of BEING interested a little more. This may not be accurate, but I get the idea that you have almost a list of topics you find interesting and have no interest whatsoever in things that are not on that list. I assume your interests are not immutable; a person can develop interests as they go along.

            I think you would have a better time in many conversations if you could find a way to take an interest in a topic b/c you find the person you're talking to interesting, or by seeing how it has qualities that you can draw out some interest in.

            When you talk about probing and pushing towards deeper analysis or topics you like, it gives me the impression that there might be an aggressive vibe to some of your conversation. Again, this may not be accurate, but if there is anything to it, developing a little more of a zen approach where you are okay with the conversation flowing where it will might help.

          • Delafina

            Well, there's a fine line. Sometimes, you're talking to someone, and you are having a great conversation, and they go off on a tangent that you don't find interesting. If you want the conversation to continue, it may be worth it to fake a moderate level of interest, while not asking them questions or doing anything to encourage the tangent that doesn't interest you.

            Here's the thing. If I'm talking to someone, and we're having a great conversation, and suddenly I get a blatant NOT INTERESTED reaction from them, not wanting to wear out my welcome, I'll usually change the subject, but if I don't get warmth from them very quickly, I assume they're not interested in talking to me and move on.

            So, the trick to maintaining the ebb and flow of a conversation is in part calibrating your disinterest to indicate which topics you find interesting, while not being disinterested enough to make them feel like you're not interested in *them.*

            Maybe when someone you otherwise find interesting talks about a topic you're not interested in, the uninterested vibes you're giving off are strong enough to drive them away.

      • thesurfmonkey

        You say "I engage in conversation to figure the other person out." That sounds to me like the basis of a hostile or invasive feeling conversation, especially combined with your evident dislike of people in general. If we met in person and the entire conversation was you trying to "figure me out", I'd think you were doing it in order to judge me, and I wouldn't like that at all.

        There's a difference between getting to know someone better and figuring them out. When you say you want to figure someone out, you're diminishing them to some sort of thing or logic puzzle that you could fully comprehend, rather than the ever-changing and multifaceted individual person they feel themselves to be.

        Maybe people don't like you because you come across to them as arrogant and judgmental, or because if they say they like something you want them to defend their liking with your preferred brand of analysis or risk being seen as intellectually inferior.

        • Honest question, but why would I want to get to know someone better without also figuring them out? I mean, I figure people out so I can try to assess if we're compatible friends. If we have incompatible personalities, then it doesn't seem like a good use of time on either person's part to become friends. Now maybe I've just never figured out how, but how can you assess whether you'll get along well with someone just by trading information? Someone liking the color blue or who enjoys reading Harry Potter wouldn't necessarily get along with me, even though I enjoy both of those things.

          So how can you figure out if someone has a compatible personality (and is worth pursuing a friendship with) without figuring them out?

          • enail

            For me, the fact that they liked the color blue or Harry Potter might not tell me much, but I imagine that the way we exchanged that information, their conversational style, how they respond to my comments, would tell me enough to know whether I wanted to advance to the next conversational level, so to speak, or not.

            What kind of things do you need to figure out to tell if they're someone you'd like to pursue a friendship with them? Are they fairly concrete qualities?

          • thesurfmonkey

            Maybe you mean something totally different from what it sounds like you mean when you say figure them out. I don't think it's possible to ever completely figure someone out. Living people are always growing and changing. I don't think it's even possible to truly know oneself 100%. There is always more to know. So when you say you're going to figure someone out, it sounds like you think you have a god's-eye-view that lets you understand them that well.

            If that's not what you mean, if you more mean things like find out if they have similar hobbies and interests, or whether they treat people around them well or poorly, or whether they're more introverted or extraverted, then maybe that's a different thing. Those are things you can discover with a little observation and/or a few questions.

            How do know if it's worth pursuing a friendship with someone? Well, that's a question with a couple different levels of answers. First I'd mention that what introverts consider a friendship and what extraverts consider a friendship can be very different beasts. An introvert generally only has a few very close, very deep friendships, while an extravert will often describe every person whose name and face they know as a friend. Introverts wouldn't call all those people friends, and might not even call them acquaintances. So when you talk about whether it's worthwhile to make friends with someone, I'm assuming you mean the introvert type of friendship because it entails a lot more investment. I'd also say that for most introverts it's worthwhile to expand their circle of acquaintances a bit and not sweat it that you don't know every person in that circle so closely.

            Ok, so then who is it worthwhile to pursue a closer kind of friendship with? I think it's not a one-time choice but more of series of choices. You hang out with someone once. Afterward you ask yourself if you had fun hanging out with them. If so, attempt to hang out with them again. If not, you can either let them drift away (note that I'm not saying cut them out but merely not follow up, in other words let them become an acquaintance) or you can decide to give it a second try in case there was some temporary circumstance that made it not fun. So the second time you hang out with the person, afterward you ask yourself again if you had fun hanging out with them. If no, let them be just an acquaintance. If yes, attempt to hang out with them again.

            Are you seeing the pattern there? You never make a full-on judgement of them as a person, whether they are a worthwhile human being (which is what the "figure them out" thing sounds like). You judge whether or not you had fun with them each time. An ongoing pattern of having fun with someone over a series of times hanging out together is a good indicator that you could be closer friends. Plus, the act of hanging out in a casual way and having fun together is a good way to become closer friends.

            Save the deep probing questions for later on, when you've achieved a certain comfort level together. Every person you meet doesn't have to be auditioning for the role of Best Friend Who Totally Gets You. And when people feel like they are being asked to audition like that, it's really off-putting.

          • Guess that's the problem. I only have fun when I am analyzing. And no, I don't mean "figure them out" as in judge them. I mean "figure them out" as in should I say this, should I do that, do they respond well to this, etc.
            My criteria for hanging out again is rarely "did I have fun," because I almost never have fun outside of the deep probing, philosphical kind of conversations. My criteria is usually "Did they like me? Yes: Attempt to hang out again."
            I just…. don't hang out in a casual way. I have no concept of what that would look like… probably because now it's clear I have a very different concept of fun than other people.

          • thesurfmonkey

            You said, "I only have fun when I am analyzing." Is that literally true? Do you have no other interests at all ever in the whole wide world? Really? Zero other interests? There is NOTHING else you enjoy? At all? I find that really hard to believe.

            Are you saying that the only kind of conversations you enjoy are ones in which you analyze things? Or are you saying that you do not enjoy anything else in the universe except analyzing things? These are two very different statements.

            I'm suggesting doing something enjoyable in the company of other people. If you truly can't enjoy yourself doing anything (food? movies? nature walk? dancing? rock climbing? drawing? painting? sewing? video games? D&D? frisbee? cosplay?) other than analyze things, then maybe you have bigger fish to fry.

          • More the latter. I do take enjoyment in other things, but they are solitary things. I enjoy walks and sewing and video games and nature walking, but I enjoy them much more on my own. The only occasions where I have fun with other people, or when I have fun in a conversation, are ones with an analytic nature. I love sewing, but I found TALKING about sewing incredibly boring (even if I am the one talking.)

  • LeeEsq

    Another question, is there a difference between being needy and wanting to date and see a person as much as possible because you never had romantic experience before and want to experience everything you missed as soon and often as possible?

    • enail

      They sound like they'd feel the same to the person on the receiving end.

    • BiSian

      I think you're articulating a different motivation for neediness than the dominant narrative, but like enail said, the result is the same.

    • Mel_

      I'd say they wouldn't just feel the same way, they pretty much are the same thing. Either way you're acting like you "need" all this emotional/romantic energy from the other person all at once in order to feel happy with the relationship–thus, needy. You're just being needy for a different reason.

      I think you need to remember that "romantic experience" isn't like water from a faucet, where a gallon poured out over ten years is exactly the same in quality and quantity as a gallon poured over a week. Most people's romantic experience doesn't include many big whirlwind times when everything happens at once, and the experience of waiting to hear back from someone and missing them when you're apart and so on is a big part of what makes the times when you're together more meaningful and poignant. If you try to rush everything all at once, you'll actually still be missing out on a lot of those experiences you want. As well as making the other person nervous with your intensity.

    • Trooper6

      There is another problem with neediness/enthusiasm that is embedded in this sentence: "want to experience everything you missed as soon and often as possible"

      That is fine if you are talking about things that don't involve other people. You can whoe up in a practice room and work on saxophone skills all day everyday if you like. It isn't efficient to practice too many hours a day, and if it is sports rather than saxophone you can injure yourself…but hey, that is all on you if you want to do unwise things that effect no one but yourself.

      I hope you can see where I'm going with this.

      When this "I want to experience as much and as often as I can" involves another person, especially a person you've just gone a first date with, and if some of those things you want to experience as often as possible includes sex…that can come off really creepy. It can be pressurey and predatory. Like you want to rush, rush, rush, and the individual woman doesn't matter too much.

      In a similar vein, it is a big red flag if I go out on a first date with a woman who starts talking about how she is looking for someone to married and have kids with within the next year.
      1) Slow down!
      2) You don't even know me in any way and you are talking about getting married!
      3) for example, I don't believe anyone should get married after knowing someone for only a year, and I also am ambivalent about getting married while gay people can't.
      4) I only want to "marry" someone who wants to marry *me,* not someone who wants to get married in general.
      5) If I'm going on a date because I'm testing out the possibilities of an actual relationship with this person, and I get the feeling this person just wants to use me (to make up for lost time in some way), I'm going to be turned off and be totally out of there.

      • SarahGryph

        "4) I only want to "marry" someone who wants to marry *me,* not someone who wants to get married in general." I agree with a lot of your points, but this has always been a huge one for me. It bothers me how the line can get blurred between "I want to date/marry you" and "I want to be dating/be married; may as well be you." Don't get me wrong, I like being in a relationship and I'd like to get married…..but only if/when I find someone I want to do those things with.

        • Trooper6

          I'm totally with you on this one.
          So many people feel pressured to get married on a certain time table and that if they don't they are some sort of failure. I saw way too many people like that in the Army. They got married at 18, 19, 20 to someone they've know all of 2 months because that is what is done, and they want to be married so badly. Then they have kids almost immediately…because that is also what you do. Then they get divorced 2-5 years later.


    • thesurfmonkey

      I think there is a very important difference. In the first one, it's "need", which implies that if you don't get it, then things are bad. But the second one you say "want", which implies that if you do get it, then things are good, but doesn't necessarily mean that if you don't get it you'll make things bad. I think wanting is fine! Especially if you're going to be a big boy or girl if you don't get everything you want and not try make the other person feel guilty or use your wants as emotional leverage to force them to behave a certain way. That's the thing with neediness, it's using your emotions as blackmail to make the other person act out your internal script instead of letting them be who they are.

    • eselle28

      Unfortunately, I'm with everyone else on this one: if the behavior is the same, it doesn't really matter what the reason for it is. Most people have fairly sympathetic explanations for things they do that might annoy others. It doesn't change the fact that the behavior is difficult to deal with.

      In this case, I think there are two aspects that might be objectionable. The first is that you're going to meet a lot of women who simply don't have time to see you that frequently, at least in the early stages, or and that others will want to take things slow because they want some time to evaluate how the two of you interact and because they might be going on dates with others. The second and larger issue is expecting your next relationship to compensate for all of the feeling frustrated or left out or behind the dating curve that you're experiencing now. That's a lot of pressure to put on someone, and it's not a very reasonable expectation of what your next relationship will look like. It probably will bring a lot of joy to your life and you will experience some of those things you desire, but it's not going to be an exact duplicate of other people's relationships or fulfill in every relationship fantasy you've been having.

      • Gentleman Johnny

        The solution to which is to go into this date with this person right now. Don't bring your exes (or lack thereof) with you. Enjoy the time you've got and (especially early on) don't put too much pressure on what the future will bring. Enjoy the moment.

    • SarahGryph

      Normally I'd say that "want" is different but…whether you meant to phrase it this way or not; the way that comes off would set off my own red flags. I'll try to explain but really, I'm not saying you mean it like this, just it's how it sounds to me: "wanting to date and see a person as much as possible because you never had romantic experience before and want to experience everything you missed as soon and often as possible? " That makes it sound like the main reason you want to hang out with this person a lot is to somehow "make up for" your past – which this person isn't responsible for creating or fixing. Being excited to see someone you care about is awesome; and if it's your first time experiencing it; it'll be a doubly awesome feeling for you!

      • SarahGryph

        *But* the way this comes off is another one of those "insert generic female here so I can get this life experience I haven't had before" rather than "I'm so excited to share this experience with *you*, Person I Am With." In the latter case the two of you are talking about what you both like and don't like; in life and in a relationship and finding the path that makes you both happy. In the former…not so much. And I'm sorry, I'm not trying to be harsh. I would personally be fine with a guy all excited to see me bc the two of us hit it off that well. I would not be ok with feeling like I was trying to make up for what someone else views as lost time. Also what was said on another comment; sometimes people are just plain busy and may not want or be able to see a partner all of the time.

        • LeeEsq

          I'm sorry but a lot of this read s to me as "congratulations you finally met somebody interested in dating you but because you're an adult and have lots of responsibilities than neither you will have much if any time together. You get all the bad parts of being in a relationship with little or none of the good parts." I realize that this isn't the intent of the advise but it reads like this and isn't that encouraging.

          • enail

            You can't know how the relationship would go or how much time you'd have together at any age, every relationship is different. Trying to push a potential relationship into the track that you feel like it ought to have could be off-putting to the other person. It's just like that thread further up about conversation – you need to be open to different ways things could progress and get comfortable going with the flow a bit, people don't tend to react well when someone tries to force an encounter in a particular direction, whether it's a conversation or a relationship.

          • Mel_

            As in our discussion above, you seem to have a very all-or-nothing approach to this. Sarah pointed out that some people may not want or be able to see a partner "all the time". You immediately jumped to that meaning you won't have "much if any time together". You can see someone regularly with seeing them all the time! I saw my now-husband two to three times a week up until we moved in together, and that was lots, but still left us lots of time to see friends and take care of other responsibilities.

            Most people, even when they don't have lots of responsibilities, don't see their romantic partners constantly unless they're living together. (In high school or college it might happen if you're dating someone you go to school with, because that's almost like living together, but you're probably not going on dates outside of school every single day. And many people at that age date people outside school–my one high school boyfriend lived an hour away and I only saw him 1-2 times a week for most of our relationship). If you want to see someone *more* than is normal in the average relationship, then there's nothing wrong with the other person if they feel that's too much, especially early on in the relationship. It wouldn't even mean they don't care about you enough. We're not discouraging you, just encouraging you to have realistic expectations about how relationships in general work.

          • SarahGryph

            "We're not discouraging you, just encouraging you to have realistic expectations about how relationships in general work." Thanks Mel, that's what I was trying to say. I've been in adult relationships where I saw someone a lot; it's just that happened in time once we both wanted that. I've just been uncomfortable when someone was holding that as "the plan for us" since before he'd even met me; or if I felt my time with him was being measured to a standard. Guys who are understanding that I have my own responsibilities make me more likely to want to hang out with them because I feel comfortable. Guys who push hard for all my time before I'm ready make me not want to see them because it feels like they aren't taking my feelings into account; just what they want. I don't like having to argue because I'd rather do my laundry at home than do it at my bf's house bc he has to see me all the time. (Yes, that happened.)

          • Trooper6

            *shudder* Your ex sounds not ideal.

            And "I want to see you all the time because I love you" can slide into creepy controlling stalker real fast….or even just unhealthy co-dependent person real fast.

          • Trooper6

            Um…this comment is strange to me.

            "You get all of the bad parts of being in a relationship with little or none of the good parts."
            What do you think are the bad parts of being in a relationship?

            In my good relationships, I haven't had any bad parts.
            I've been in relationships with bad parts (this partner is an alcoholic, this partner is an energy vampire, this partner and I have too divergent of a class background and that causes friction, etc)…but those were bad relationships…and the bad parts were not fundamental to relationships in general but to that particular relationship…which is why I'm no longer in those relationships.

            What are the good parts you are expecting out of the relationship?

            Perhaps your ideas of good and bad parts in relationships might be hampering your dating life?

          • enail

            I dunno, I think it's fair to say that even very good relationships have downsides. For instance, my wife and I often land up getting engrossed in long conversations, which is something I love about our relationship, but it does mean that I tend to fritter away some time that I probably ought to be doing something else with. Or, the fact that you generally have to compromise on things from time to time, when you decide what to eat for dinner you have to take into account the taste of someone other than you (if you're living with someone else).

            It's not that they're unpleasant things, but there are ways that being single has one advantage and being in a relationship has another one, and you can't have both at once.

          • Trooper6

            I'm going to take on the two "bad parts" you mentioned, comment on them specifically as a way to make a larger point, and then go a bit further.

            First relationship problem: "my wife and I often land up getting engrossed in long conversations, which is something I love about our relationship, but it does mean that I tend to fritter away some time that I probably ought to be doing something else with."

            This is not a problem with relationships, that is a problem with you. And I say this as a person who has the same problem.
            My job is 1/2 interacting with people (teaching, advising, presenting, service), 1/2 being alone (research and writing).
            I am an extrovert…so I tend to be drawn more to the first half than the second half. And so I find myself engrossed in long conversations rather than sitting alone in my office writing when I need to recharge my energy from working hard.
            Writing is hard and can make you vulnerable…and what better way to procrastinate from writing than…getting engrossed in long conversations rather than sitting alone in my office writing.

            And I am single and I still do it. Using long engrossing conversations as an avoidance mechanism is not "one of the bad parts of relationships." That is a personal challenge. Now that challenge may be more difficult if your partner has the same problem or is an enabler…but that is not a problem that is intrinsic to relationships, and not having a relationship will not cure that problem.

            Second relationship problem: "you generally have to compromise on things from time to time, when you decide what to eat for dinner you have to take into account the taste of someone other than you (if you're living with someone else)."

            I'm going to distinguish between to types of compromise. Big and little. Big compromises are those things that are about your core values, your hopes and dreams, the things really important to you. You should not have to compromise on these things. Don't date people where you have to do that. That is a bad thing in all relationships, it is a sign of a bad relationship.

            Little compromises: taking other people's taste and feelings into account. That is not a bad thing about relationships, that is a good thing about relationships. I believe that sharing and compromise and cooperation (all those things we learn from Sesame Street) are good and positive life skills and attitudes. Being in a relationship allows you to continue practicing those skills rather than getting too self-centered and selfish. When I was a kid, my family had one TV…and we had to learn to compromise to figure out who was going to watch what at which time. That wasn't a bad part of being a family, it was a good part. It helped make me a better person. For this very reason, I have a friend who has a deal breaker that she won't date only children, because she thinks those skills of sharing are that vital to a good relationship.

            When I'm single I can be totally selfish only do what I want when I want it without thinking about anybody else. But that isn't good.

            So I'm currently single. I chose not to date for the last few years because I was finishing my dissertation (and needed to be really selfish about it for a year), then I was on the job market (which was really bad and the life of an adjunct is unstable and I didn't know where I was even going to live). Now did I choose to be single because taking another person into account is a bad part of a relationship? No. I didn't date because it is bad dissertating and being unstable and not knowing where you are going to live in a year. I didn't want to inflict that on someone else. So I wanted to wait until I was in a good space before I got back into the dating pool.

            I think it is important not to confuse bad personal situations or bad relationships with bad things that are fundamental to relationships.

            I don't think there is anything fundamentally bad about relationships at all–no fundamental bad parts.
            There are bad relationships.
            There are bad times to get into relationships.
            There are bad things going on with an individual in a relationship.
            But relationships don't have downsides in and of themselves.

          • enail

            Perhaps I was making it sound more negative than I mean, b/c your take on my relationship sounds pretty terrible! I think we're in agreement for the most part, when you put it the way you do.

            About conversation, I wouldn't say that it's a problem, spending time on conversation is an active choice that I make, but it IS something that I choose at the expense of other things sometimes, because time is finite. Having someone in my own home I enjoy talking to makes it viable to choose it over, say, practicing guitar more; whereas if I were single and had to call someone up to talk to them, I'd probably practice guitar more. Talking with my wife is a benefit of our relationship and is a priority, while playing guitar isn't even a third-tier hobby for me, but the fact is that if I were single I would have more time to spend on third-tier hobbies, and I probably would enjoy them, even though they're not high on my list. Anything that's a priority has the downside of having some amount less time for other priorities, and that's true of relationships (unless you're a pretty terrible partner!).

            I don't think it's a bad thing to have to compromise (on minor things, not on core values, that's no good!), and it's not something that I think makes people unhappy in a good relationship. But it is the kind of thing a person who's currently living on their own may quite reasonably have as a reason they don't want to move in with their boy/girlfriend etc.

            Sharing/compromise/cooperation are good things, and everyone should have some of them in their lives, but I don't think it necessarily follows that more of them is ALWAYS better (even on minor things). Being happy compromising on dinner with your partner is a good thing, but enjoying being single and deciding to just eat what you feel like, or enjoying that night when your partner's out and you cook all the foods they hate is also good and not selfish in the bad sense.

            Everyone has an amount of minor compromise that's right for them at a given point in their lives, and it's okay to choose to not have to take someone else into account as much as you'd need to to be in a serious relationship. If that's how you feel, it would be a downside to being in that kind of relationship.

            I think compromise and having an additional priority are fundamental aspects to relationships, and they are things that have both good and bad points; and I'm sure they're not the only aspects like that. If they felt like actual downsides, that would be a sign that the relationship wasn't working, but I think it's still fair to say that they're "bad points" in the abstract.

          • LeeEsq

            I would refer to my only relationship as being composed of all the dull, serious but necessary parts of relationship with very little and eventually nothing of say anything romantic, passionate, or sexual. Bad was maybe not the right word to choose but one of my biggest apprehensions and fears about an eventual relationship is that I'm going to be pushed off into the deep end and start with relationship where the serious stuff like chores outweigh any romance by magnitudes.

          • enail

            I'm curious to know what kinds of things in a relationship you'd consider dull, serious and necessary, b/c that's not something I associate with a good relationship.

            Chores are something you have to do whether or not you're in a relationship, right? It's true that it can be tricky figuring out how to divide chores if you're living with someone for the first time.

          • LeeEsq

            Its kind of hard to explain but I guess what I'm really worried about is that any potential partner is going to want something that is more serious than what I'm looking for. A lot of people I know around my age are married with kids, getting married, or are looking for a very serious relationship that would lead to marriage. What I want is something a lot lighter, kind of like something that usually happens in the teenage years or twenties but with us being older. I'm a bit apprehensive that women who might date me are looking for potential husbands rather than a boyfriend and I have to go into something a lot more serious than I want.

          • eselle28

            New York City is chock full of women in their late 20s who aren't even close to thinking about marriage yet. It will be entirely possible for you to find a partner who isn't focused on finding a husband, and I think you're devoting a little too much thought to the issue, especially since it seems to make you anxious.

            Of course, that same person might not be up for immediately devoting a large portion of her free time to dating you, either, and I don't think you'll find many adults who want to replay teenage relationships (I don't know what you're picturing when you write about young love, but you have a much more idealized vision of high school dating than most people do). There are ways to keep things light and fun and not too committed without miming those old behaviors.

          • If being with someone is your priority, and vice versa, then the two of you can make it work.

            My husband is also my best friend. I like nothing better than to spend time with him. Yes, we have adult responsibilities, but we take care of them together. We clean the kitchen together and go grocery shopping together and pay our bills together. We even have a small business together! Doing ordinary things with him is ten times better than doing anything with anyone else.

            We've both organized our lives to prioritize each other in very concrete ways, including taking pay cuts to have more schedule flexibility. If having time together is your priority, and you find someone compatible who shares that priority, then you can make it happen.

            Also: I, too, am curious about what you think the bad parts of being in a relationship are. There are some parts of my life with my partner that require a lot of skill, or that are sometimes challenges for us to overcome, but even the worst moments are a thousand times sweeter because they involve him.

          • eselle28

            In a lot of your comments, you describe relationships between young people as being glorious and carefree and ideal, while you seem to view ones between people who are a few years older as being gloomy and practical and purely focused on responsibilities. Neither of these things are true. Don't you know any happy adult couples?

            In any case, you're unlikely to bump into someone in the quad and latch onto each other immediately and spend most of the next semester hanging out in her dorm room. But that's not the ideal relationship, or the only kind that can be fun and exciting. That dating scene apparently didn't work well for you in any case. Instead of focusing so much on the past, I think it might be better to live in the present.

          • SarahGryph

            Part of any relationship is finding what both people are happy and comfortable with, though! I did have a boyfriend in high school and as it happened I broke up with him because – yep, even in high school – I was uncomfortable with him wanting to spend every waking moment with me. I had family stuff, school work, time I wanted to spend with my friends; and he didn't respect that. My best relationship was in my early/mid 20's and we just worked around our schedule to see each other as much as we *both* wanted to. Which eventually managed to be 3 to 5 times a week depending on the week. When both people are into each other and both want to see each other a lot, you find times that work. It's also a personality thing, some people need more solo time than others or more time to know someone before they jump in feet first. That's not a bad thing, but it is something you need to respect in a partner if you want things to work.

          • SarahGryph

            And I, too; am not quite grokking what you mean by "bad parts" and "good parts." My worst relationships were bad because of issues between my partner and me so…the "bad parts" of those were when we we together, not apart! And as they were bad relationships anyway, that's beside the point since the goal is to have a good one. In my good relationships, it was a good relationship whether I was hanging out with them or shooting off a text to say "hey you, hope work goes well and I'll see ya this weekend!"

    • LoN

      I'm in this boat. I'm seeing somebody, kinda, for the first time in about a year and I'm trying not to be needy or over-eager.

      that said, I've been on the other side of it and it was frightening.

    • Vic


  • SarahGryph

    Are the questions obvious to you because you already know what your own answers would be? The point of questions like that aren't fact exchange; they're to give the other person a chance to share their *opinion.* If they aren't that into the topic then yes; you'll get short answers. But if they are interested, it's a good point to start from. Some people just don't like to analyze as deeply. I mentioned earlier that my mom is an electrical engineer; she's a very very smart woman. Unlike me, she also could not care less about whether or not character X acted out of character in Chapter 25 or if the author used a misplaced modifier in Chapter 6. She just wants to relax and read her book. Different people have different interests and focus on different things. Sometimes you can learn the most from someone who doesn't think quite the same way as you, in my experience.

  • Hazel

    I am considering plagiarizing you for my positive psychology paper. Well, no, not really, of course, but it is a little tempting.

    • BritterSweet

      Just cite the source properly. Then it's not plagiarism.

  • enail

    Ugh, giant wall of text here. Sorry folks! I dunno why sometimes it lets me get away with this and sometimes it makes me cut things short…

  • Thortok2000

    Been awhile since I've been able to read this blog so I'm catching up on some old entries. Don't know if anyone will see this now, but oh well.

    I come from a background of low self-esteem and clingy neediness and validation-seeking. I'm kinda past the hump as far as getting away from all that, but there's a residual bit.

    I'm lonely. I would really like a relationship, I would really like somebody to validate me and tell me she likes me and all that good stuff. I'm in this paradox where I want it enough to feel bad that I don't have it (and get sad/jealous when I see others have it), but 'try not to want it' enough that I don't actually work hard enough to go out more, clean up better, much of the stuff that's recommended in these blogs.

    Right now I'm stepping back and asking myself if I really want a relationship right now or not. I get so lonely, and my hormones rage for cuddles and intimacy, but if it weren't for loneliness and hormones I'm actually quite fine by myself. On the other hand, hearing about women I'm interested in having sex with other guys and all the hookups and relationships that go on around here (I swear it's like a soap opera), it kinda pangs me a little that I'm getting 'left behind' on all that.

    So I don't know where I am on all that. I haven't completely internalized my locus of control, although I've come pretty far on that. I'm at a point where it's like…now what? My neediness and desperation and stuff has been one of the only directions in my life, and it was a sucky direction so I'm getting rid of it. How do I find a new direction to go instead? The passion and drive that would, ironically, make me more attractive for relationships anyway. =P

    That's my core issue all over again and I'm not sure internet advice is gonna help, but I thought I'd throw it out there in case anyone has anything to offer while I'm saving up money for a therapist. =P

  • Jesse

    I've read a good amount of articles and podcast's from Dr Nerd Love to say that most of what he is saying is…BALANCE

    Balance your life out…Most likely I've had trouble finding ladies to date because the REST OF MY LIFE was OUT OF BALANCE. I was either working too much or to little. I was focusing too much on finding that special someone while neglecting myself. Once I found a way to balance my needs as well as help meet the needs of other (friends/family) naturally things clicked with my dating life.

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  • Jem

    No snark intended Doc, but just so's you know: the correct plural of 'forum' (and most other things ending in '-um') is 'fora'.

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