It’s OK To Be Single

Friday was Valentine’s Day – or as I like to call it, “the Holy Day of Lover’s Obligation” , which of course is an absolutely miserable time to be alone. Whether you’re trying to co-opt it with a cutesy “Gal-entine’s day” or “Pal-entine’s day”, an anti-V-day party or just sitting at home hating the world, V-Day is just one more way that the culture reminds you that you’re alone and that’s terrible.

Although you don’t need a holiday to remind you that you’re not in a relationship; all you have to do is turn on the TV or step outside. When you’re single, the universe seems to go out of its way to remind you of that fact – everywhere you look, it’s wall to wall happy couples and a constant barrage of messages that tells you that if you’re not in a relationship right now, then there’s something wrong with you. The longer you’ve been single, the greater the feelings of judgement and lack of worth.  Women feel this the most – after all, we still live in a culture where women are taught that being in a relationship is their highest calling – but goddamn do men suffer from this insecurity as well; we’re just not allowed to mention it as much because guys aren’t supposed to want a relationship, they’re supposed to enjoy being free to fuck around all they want.

Of course, this is nice in theory, but it’s pretty damn meaningless when not only is that not what you want, but you’re having a hard enough time getting a date, never mind hot and cold running fuckbuddies.

Of course, well-meaning friends and family members just manage to make it worse when they tell you that they can’t imagine why someone as awesome as you is single.

"Thanks for confirming that I'm uniquely defective..."

“Thanks for confirming that I’m uniquely defective…”


Offering unsolicited advice or otherwise feeling free to comment on your singleton status is the extra lemon juice on the open gash that is your lack of a relationship. I’m as guilty as anyone of this; I’ve poked and prodded at single friends and ended up making them feel worse without meaning to. After all, when you’re already feeling insecure about being single, having someone tell you “hey, you’re not trying hard enough, do this instead” just twists the knife a little more.

A lot of the advice about “just enjoy being single” doesn’t help either. Long lists of cliches like “you’re free to make your own plans” and “you always get to watch the movie you want to see” is just trying to put a smiley-face sticker on a sense of shame and inferiority and pretending that this makes it all better. The problem isn’t that you don’t appreciate all this “me time” you have, the problem is the way it makes you feel. But – and someone call Sir Mix-A-Lot, ‘cuz this is a big but – you don’t have to let this define you.  It’s time to take your self-worth back and realize it’s ok to be single. Really.

Being Single Isn’t A Reflection On Your Value As A Person

One of the hardest mindsets to overcome is to decouple your sense of worth from your relationship status – especially when you’ve never had a girlfriend or boyfriend at all. It’s an incredibly easy trap to fall into – after all, when you’ve never dated anyone, it’s easy to assume that this is proof that you’re somehow unworthy, that you’re just not as good as that asshole over there who’s knee-deep in ass and collects girlfriends the way other people collect pocket lint.

Oh sure Gary, that's just the third woman you've hooked up this week despite your shitty personality and complete lack of respect for others. GOD I HATE YOU GARY.

Oh sure Gary, that’s just the third woman you’ve hooked up this week despite your shitty personality and complete lack of respect for others. GOD I HATE YOU GARY.

The problem is that this is a form of external validation; it’s tying your sense of worth to what somebody else thinks about you rather than how you feel. This comes in many insidious forms – often, either you’re basing your value on whether one person feels you’re mind-bogglingly amazing, (which is troubling at best and needy at worst) or the value-judgements of other people who have next to no idea about who you are as a person. Whether or not you’re in a relationship currently or have ever been in one at all has nothing – I repeat, nothing – to do with how awesome you are as a person. Whether or not you’re dating, married, fucking around with abandon or haven’t had a date since Thundarr the Barbarian was the hottest thing on Saturday morning doesn’t mean that you somehow have less to offer than somebody who plows through women like kleenex.

I realize logic and emotion don’t cancel each other out, but taking a moment to step back and examine the situation dispassionately can help you recognize whether you’re being irrational or not. What, exactly, does being or not being single mean for your value as a person? It means someone wants to date you. That’s it. We’ve all known people who’ve gotten into (or stayed in) relationships for shitty reasons; does this make their partner better somehow? Is the shitbag who abuses his girlfriend better than you just because he’s in a relationship? Is the gay guy who lives in an area where being out of the closet could very well mean being murdered a worse person because it’s hard for him to find a boyfriend?

There will be some wags who will be quick to proclaim that they’d rather be in a bad relationship than be single. You can tell those are the ones who haven’t actually been in a relationship before because…

The Fail State of A Relationship Isn’t “Single”

Here’s the thing a lot of people don’t understand: a failed relationship isn’t one that ended. It’s one that’s still going on even though one or both (or more) partners are fucking miserable.

Whenever I hear somebody comment about how they’ll take any relationship because they hate being alone that much I start to shudder because no matter how badly they may feel about being single, they’ve never felt the unique misery that comes from being in a toxic relationship.  Believe me, until you’ve experienced it, you don’t understand that you can be with someone – not just in a relationship but in the room with them – and still feel even more alone than if you were the last man standing at U.S. 31 and MacReady just drank the last of the Scotch.

"Sorry, somebody else gets to go through their long dark night of the soul sober."

“Sorry, somebody else gets to go through their long dark night of the soul sober.”

Having been there and done that from both sides, I can tell you that no matter how much you may hate being single, it is infinitely better than being stuck in a bad relationship. I’ve had plenty of times when a relationship’s ending didn’t feel like a failing so much as a release from jail. Believe me: it may not seem like it when you’re feeling like the Last American Virgin, but there are plenty of times when being single is a blessing, not a curse. Being single, even on those dark nights when it seems like everyone else is coupled up and happy and you’re feeling lower than a snake’s balls in a ditch, is infinitely preferable to being in a relationship that just drains the vitality out of you. A bad relationship leaves scars, ones that can fuck you up for years at a time before they heal fully. They mess with your head and your self-worth, making you believe that this is what you deserve or that you’ll never find anything better… and the main reason you stay is because you fear being single would somehow be worse.

I’ve met plenty of people who’ve leapt at a relationship – one they knew was going to be bad for them – because when it came right down to it, they thought that being single meant being a failure and being unworthy. Shit, back in my bad old days, that’s why I stayed. I thought it was better to be in a shitty relationship than it was to be single. It took me years to get out and even longer to undo the damage. As desperate as I was for validation (and sex, let’s be honest), the damage that came with it simply wasn’t worth it.

Being Alone Doesn’t Mean Being Miserable

Loneliness sucks. I totally get that. I’m an extrovert; I need to be around people otherwise I start getting twitchy and depressed. But I’m an extrovert who’s gotten very good at being alone. I didn’t used to be. I grew up with a twin brother1, so even when I was in my room reading or farting around on the primitive excuses we had for computer networks2 there were other people around. But once we hit high-school and weren’t forcibly joined at the hip… well suddenly he’s the popular guy on campus and I’m off in my own little world and rapidly running out of oxygen. I didn’t have many friends and spent far more time cooped up in my room, feeling sorry for myself than you’d believe. I was profoundly lonely and miserable. My few abortive attempts at dating were beyond comedically laughable. I mean, how do you end up with someone cheating on you before you’re even actually dating? College was in some ways worse. I had a tight group of friends… but if I wasn’t with them, the emptiness would return, somehow all the worse for knowing my friends were out there. I wanted us to be the sort of friends who did everything together because… well, frankly, being alone would drive me crazy.

It was only after I moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone that I started learning how to separate “being alone” from “being lonely”… and a lot of that meant learning to appreciate my own company. Not necessarily in the sense of “yay, thank god all those annoying people are gone so I can read”, but in the sense of recognizing that it was ok to be alone. It didn’t mean I was broken. It didn’t mean I was deficient. Going out to lunch or dinner with only a book for company didn’t mean that there was something wrong with me, it meant that I was hungry and didn’t feel like cooking. I might have gotten some pitying looks from the waitstaff, but hey… they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them so hell with ’em. Plus: I had a book. Books are awesome.

"Hey this almost makes up for the feeling of being a social pariah!"

“Hey this almost makes up for the feeling of being a social pariah!”

The problem isn’t “being alone”, it’s the baggage that we assign to it. The difference between loneliness and solitude is subjective; you can be lonely while surrounded by people or feel content with having some “me” time. That feeling of loneliness comes from the sense that we need other people around because we’re not sufficient in and of ourselves. Yeah, we’re pack animals and we’ve got an instinctual drive to live in social groups… but we’re also individuals and we have to be comfortable with being on our own.

A Relationship Isn’t A Magical Cure

One thing I see a lot in people who are miserable being single is the idea that a relationship is going to somehow make everything better. They don’t get much farther than “get a girlfriend” or “get a boyfriend” and somehow… they’re going to just be better people. They’ll be more confident, better looking, more driven, just… better, as though a relationship was somehow an upgrade to your life’s OS.

"Before we got together I was wallowing in my own filth. Thanks to Relationship 2.0, I've suddenly developed social skills, a personality and the ability to do parkour!"

“Before we got together I was wallowing in my own filth. Thanks to Relationship 2.0, I’ve suddenly developed social skills, a personality and the ability to do parkour!”

Except that never happens. Being in a relationship doesn’t change anything except maybe how you spend your free time. If you were insecure before you were dating somebody, you’re going to keep being insecure; hell, now that you have something to lose, it could get worse. Having a girlfriend may make you feel more confident… for a moment. Then something is going to happen to you and knock Dumbo’s magic feather out of your hand and unless you’ve also been working on your personal issues, you’re going to go right back to the mess you were beforehand.

If you’re hoping that finding a relationship is going to change things for you aside from giving you companionship – and many of you are, even if you can’t admit it to yourselves – then you’re going to disappoint yourself at best and make things even harder on yourself.

I hate using cliches and “inspirational” quotes that look great over artsy photos of the seashore, but there’s one by Ru Paul that’s absolutely appropriate: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell can you love anyone else?” It’s cool to want to be around other people, but when you’re making yourself miserable because you don’t have one specific person with which to do everything, you’re going to make it that much harder on yourself. Expecting one person – or even a small group – to be responsible for your emotional well-being is an absurd  level of pressure to put on others and it’s unfair to boot. Most folks have a hard enough time managing their own lives. Expecting them to be responsible for yours – even a portion of it – is unfair and it’s going to push them away.

You’re Allowed To Be Single and Happy

Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that there’s something wrong with wanting a relationship or that you’re a bad person because you’re lonely. As I said earlier: we’re social animals. But when you make being Forever Alone a part of your identity, you’re actively making your life harder for yourself. I realize that there’s a lot of social pressure to pair up, and feeling like you’re being left out of an amazing party that everyone else gets to go to. But you also have to be willing to acknowledge – even if nobody else will – that you still have value even if you’re not part of a couple. Being single and happy is perfectly valid. Not having a girlfriend or a boyfriend doesn’t mean that you’re somehow excluded from having an amazing life, or from being part of a community or having people who love and care for you. And let’s be real: finding someone who you’re going to want to spend almost all of your time with should be rare. If they’re going to be that important to you, they should be pretty goddamn special. So no, it’s not going to be easy, even under the best of circumstances.

But you can’t make your relationship status on Facebook the defining part of your existence. I know it’s hard. God knows I know how frustrating it can be, and how unfair it all can seem. And you’re right: it is unfair that some people have it easier than you do. Welcome to life, kid, it’s a contact sport and there’s no referee. But the fact that it’s unfair doesn’t mean that you get to give up and just whine about it until something happens. You have to take care of yourself – even if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re doomed to die alone. But you don’t know that and you can’t know that and you will never know until you die.

If whether you’re part of a couple is the only thing that gives your life meaning… well, I hate to be blunt, but you’re doing life wrong. The only constant you will have in your entire life is you… and you are ultimately the one in control of that. Your life is precisely as miserable or as wonderful as you choose to make it.

You aren’t broken because you’re alone. You’re not deficient because you haven’t had a girlfriend. You’re not missing a piece of yourself. You’re just single. And that’s ok.



  1. Although in fairness: we’re the worst twins ever. []
  2. INN: like CompuServe only with a GUI and somehow lamer []

  • paulidin

    I expressed many of these points (or similar) in my vlog post, "What's Wrong with Forever Alone?"!

    • LeeEsq

      I think its fair to point out that there are different forms of singleness just as their different type of relationships. We have relationships that range from casual to serious to the traditional exclusive, monogamous type to open relationships and everything in between. Likewise with singleness we have people who are single and have no romantic or sexual relationships with any other person to people that at least go on series of dates even if they don't end up in a relationship to people that are single and have at least some sex or maybe even great sex lives.

      Maintaining a healthy outlook is probably very hard for people in the first type of singleness, no romantic/sexual relationships with anybody, because most of us have at least some desire in that direction. If you have at least some romantic or sexual contact with another person on occasion that staying emotionally healthy is easier. People with the first type of singleness are also going to worry a lot about how much they have to miss out on if they get into a relationship latter in life.

      • LeeEsq

        Yes, I realize that calling exclusive, monogamous relationships the traditional type is a contentious subject. At least in European and European-derived societies, its been the dominant type for so long that it counts as the traditional type in my view.

      • paulidin

        I think single is single — meaning not in a relationship — but I definitely agree there are different mindsets to be in when you are single. I was once very much trying to get out of it; I thought of singleness as the "failure state". I am now coming to think of it as just another state of being and one in which I can find happiness. At least, that's my goal!

        • LeeEsq

          Its not really that simple. Just as there are different types of relationships so there are different ways of being single. Its important to qualify what we mean by being single just as its important to qualify what we mean by being in a relationship because of the variety. If your single but go on dates or even have sex on occasion or frequently than you might not exactly like being single but you have a sense of hope, have some of your sexual wants filled probably, and are probably happier than somebody whose single and never dates or has sex. Of course the latter could be very happy to for various reasons.

          • eselle28

            I'd agree it's not that simple, but I think you're painting a picture of it that also oversimplifies the situation. People who go on dates and have sex sometimes aren't necessarily hopeful, or any happier than unhappy people who don't do those things. There are a lot of individual variables – moral values, whether the dates and the sex are enjoyable, life goals, and so on. Some of those people also worry a great deal about their potential to be in relationships in the future and what they may miss out on in life if they can't find relationships. They're different problems than the ones you face, but they are problems.

          • LeeEsq

            I admitted that in the paragraph. A single person with a casual sex life could be emotionally miserable and a completely single person might be happy. It all depends on the individual in question.

          • Ethyl

            Yes, also these aren't static categories any more than states or types of relationships are. It does seem to me that the different types of singleness are a lot more interior — you don't have to negotiate an open relationship with yourself, as it were 🙂

  • Ouji-sama

    Beautiful article. 🙂

  • Tobias

    Ah another like yourself and be selfconfident, so you will be liked and others will like you posts. The only point I miss all the time is, how can you be happy and positive… I read and enyoed this blog for quite some time now, but this is the point I realy don't get. Sorry trick yourself into being positive as stated in another blog entry doesn't realy do the trick for me.

    • single again

      i think it's not about tricking yourself to be happy n positive as a single person… it's about choosing to be happy and positive…the same way you are choosing to be unhappy and negative.. it may not feel like a choice because society seems to dictate that one is "unsuccessful" if not in a relationship… we've just been programmed to think that way, and it certainly is possible to reprogram our mindset.

      • bodhisattva76

        While I personally get what you're saying, I will point out that not everyone can choose to be happy. A lot of people, a lot more than you'd think, have clinical depression, or other psychological disorders that prevent them from just picking themselves up by their bootstraps and getting happy. For a lot of people, it does take help, professional help and sometimes medication to even be able to start to heal. And yes, encouragement from friends is always helpful. However, that's not saying that friends are responsible for your well being, but true friends will try to help out if they can. I do agree with this article though. There's nothing wrong with being single, and in fact, it can be better to remain single until you can cope with the complexities of a relationship.

  • Elliott

    I appreciate this post. While there are definitely things I relate to from it, there still remains some struggles for me. I've never had a girlfriend, an SO or even hooked up. I've had pretty rough esteem issues and emotional issues. (I'm in therapy dealing with those) while I make progress, I more often then not also stagnate. I also have a small social circle but also don't make enough of an effort to reach out to people. I primarily feel like I don't deserve good things in my life, even though in an objective way I am doing pretty okay in my life. I was just really interested in sharing my experience.

    • Waddles

      Yes, it sucks when you're depressed or feel bad about yourself even if materially you're fine and have decent prospects in the rest of your life. I go through patches like that (although I will say that my work life is better than it has been since I left university, which helps immensely). It's a long process, and it can be frustrating when you can't just reach up to where you know you should be – it's taken me years to get where I am, even if I knew in the past where I needed to be. But at least you're trying, and slow progress is still progress.

      • Ethyl

        I've been in a relationship for 17 years and I've had episodes of depression bad enough that I was considering suicide. Being in a relationship doesn't fix shit like that.

        • enail0_o

          Yes to this. It always worries me when people here talk about relationships as a solution to self-hatred or depression. That's not something relationships do, even really good ones. Of course, having more caring, supportive people in your life can be helpful, and a romantic partner could be a really big part of that, but it's not a magic cure.

        • Waddles

          Oh yeah, sorry, I wasn't trying to say that a relationship will fix your issues – more that I didn't have my shit together enough to start a relationship in the past.

        • Elliott

          While I understand that and where you're coming from, I can say in my position, I've wanted to connect with other people and overcome my lonliness. I don't want to look at it as a band-aid, but as a part of life that still a bit lacking for me.

  • Dredd

    Thank you for this. I was alone this Valentine's Day, and I've been feeling pretty single. So I thought back to last Valentine's Day, when I spent the night with my girlfriend after going to a fancy club. But that was a girlfriend I didn't feel anything toward, and we lacked chemistry to the point where we spent every day together for a few months but were never officially dating. I wasn't any happier when I was with her, and honestly my life wasn't much different.
    And that was one of my better relationships.

    I also remind myself that if people found me attractive before, they'll find me attractive again. And I'm enough of an extrovert to be around my platonic friends. But mostly I just remind myself of all those bad relationships.

    • Waddles

      Yeah, I really don't want to be in a relationship where I feel nothing for the other person and have no rapport with them. I think as long as you're in a good place otherwise, Valentine's Day can be OK if you're single. Then again, I quite like being single for the most part, whereas I get that people who are used to being in a relationship despise it.

      • reboot

        Not all of those who were in relationships despise being single. I am, if not happier, more content and serene than I was in my (not particularly healthy) marriage. The good Doctor definitely nailed it with his comments on unhappy relationships but I think it is hard for some people who have never had a relationship to picture how bad a bad relationship can be.

        • Carrot

          "if people found me attractive before, they'll find me attractive again."
          That would be a comforting thought, if I was aware that anyone had found me attractive before. This is one of the things that sucks for people who have never had a relationship, and part of why it's difficult to picture how bad a bad relationship can be.
          Another reason it's difficult to picture is that, having had no experience, one struggles to understand why a bad relationship does not simply end the minute it becomes worse than being single. If it's so terrible, why not end it? Surely there are reasons, but we kind of have to take your word for it because we've never felt them.

          • eselle28

            I get that it's hard to grok it even if you know it's true intellectually. Just asking, but have you ever decided to end a friendship, or start sending out resumes to look for a new job, or change roommates, or go back to school? Those decisions aren't exactly the same, but they're often made in the same gradual way that some relationship decisions are made, and might be helpful for others to use as comparison points.

  • LeeEsq

    I'm a twin to. We were full term, actually slightly over full term, which is pretty damn rare for twins. We were close to full weight to.

  • Okay, so the whole idea that just because no one wants to date doesn't mean you're romantically worthless confuses me. I mean, if nobody wants to be your friend, then chances are, you're kind of an awful person, right? Because if you were as fun and smart and amazing as you think, you'd have friends. Similarly, if you were attractive and romantically worthwhile, wouldn't people want to get with that??

    Now that isn't to say that your value *as a person* is tied to your dating status. I recall the episode of Gargoyles where the three sister remind Goliath that despite her evil, Demona is still a living creatures, and "every life is precious." Your personality and looks, good or bad, does not erase your value as a human; you are worthy of the same level of respect and consideration as every other human, just by virtue of being human.

    But I don't think having value as a human being means you automatically have value as a romantic partner. You can be a worthwhile human being but a shit partner. So no one wanting to date you doesn't say anything about you as a human being or person but it sure as hell says something about you romantically.

    In nearly every single romantic entanglement I've been in, with one exception, the guys have either been lukewarm about me or desperate. And that's when I actually got a guy semi-interested in me in the first place, which is damn near impossible to do in the first place. It's pretty logical to say that must mean *something* about me and my attractiveness to the opposite sex. It makes no sense to hand-wave that evidence away.

    I'd also like to note… people never say the "I can't believe you're single, you're so awesome!" to me. When I said I was single in the past, people would nod; even my family members! I absolutely never got surprise. It was apparently PLENTY to clear to everybody else why I was single, and NOT awesome. People who hear "I can't believe you're single!"… it could be a LOT worse. 😛

    • embertine

      I get that with my childlessness, Marty. I think it's a given among my nearest and dearest at this point that I would probably eat my own young.

      People can be terrible partners or behave in ways which are off-putting without necessarily being super unattractive or being a terrible person. I know for many years I put people off by being too prickly; looking back now I can see that I really wasn't ready to date. These days I'm fatter, older and have more visibly weird personal habits, but more people find me attractive because I'm more approachable.

      I don't know what you're doing wrong, Marty, or even if you ARE doing something wrong. Sometimes it really is dumb luck who you meet. Sometimes the traditional routes for meeting people don't gel with your specific interests or personality. You seem pretty attractive to me just based on your words here, although you are very down on yourself which I would find wearying after a while. It does seem that you might be a bit stuck in a rut as regards your social circle – it's hard to break out of patterns of behaviour if that's the case.

      • I continue to be confused why people characterize being honest about people's flaws as being "down on oneself"…. I mean, if I said the sky was green when it was really blue, people would think I was nuts/seeing things. So if I say I have X and Y flaw, which is just a statement of facts, why is it I am suddenly down on myself instead of just stating the obvious?…

        I will say I'm probably in a rut, social circle wise (which doesn't currently apply to my romantic situation but has a huge impact on my social happiness.) But…. when you're in a small area, what are you gonna do, ya know? My city is big, but it isn't *that* big. The nerd community is really incestuous.

        • eselle28

          One thing you could do is attribute some of the problem to population mismatches rather than to you being inherently unworthy. You're in an incestuous community, are only willing to date within that community, and have attitudes toward big issues like monogamy and children which apparently don't match up with those held by all your fellow community members. Add in that you have some desires about behavior in the early stages of dating that not all men can or will want to meet, and I think that realistically means that you have a fairly small number of men who you know who you'll want to date.

          That doesn't mean you need to change what you want. It might just mean that you should attribute some of your past dating problems to numbers and compatibility rather than anything negative about you, and concentrate on finding the one right person rather than getting broad approval from potential dating partners.

          • reboot

            Educational attainment is a tricky one because only 25-40% of 24-64 year olds in any given state has a bachelor degree or higher which means ruling out more than 50% of peoplepeople but college is such a distinct and usually important experience in people's life that it can be difficult to connect with someone who did not experience it.

        • embertine

          Probably because a lot of what you see as your flaws are not concrete, immutable facts, but your opinion of your characteristics. Other people, as Robbie Burns would point out, don't see us the way we see ourselves.

          For example: I am medically overweight. That is a fact. Most people, however, do not think I am very fat, certainly not as fat I think I am. My ex-girlfriend had crooked teeth and was self-conscious about it. I loved her crooked teeth. What you see as a flaw may totally freak the peaches of one particular person.

          So you talk too loudly when you get excited (I don't know if you do, this is just an example)? Lots of people will find that cute. You ugly-cry at the opening credits of Disney movies (NO I DON'T DO THAT MYSELF HOW DARE YOU)? Adorable. You like to go to coffee shops alone and crochet hyperbolic planes out of Doc Marten shoelaces? Marry me. Seriously.

          Things you dislike about yourself will not be perceived the same by others. This is really important to remember.

          • Hmmm I have yet to find things I dislike about myself that others dig, mostly because I get my flaws FROM other people think. The flaws that I mention are not things I consider myself as flaws, but things other people have expressed as something they dislike or see as a flaw. Usually, people will tell me they dislike something I actually LIKE about myself.

            I agree that flaws aren't concrete things, but if a lot of people dislike something about you, then it's fair to call it a flaw.

          • embertine

            Marty, I thought you were seeing somebody at the moment, did I get that wrong?

          • You did not, but I guess I thought we were talking more generally. The things I'm saying can apply to friendship-relationships as well.

          • OtherRoooToo

            "Marty, I thought you were seeing somebody at the moment"

            Let's not confuse things by including actual facts, now. Everyone will get all flustered.

            And besides, it clouds the issue of the subthread, even if it has direct pertinence to the subject of the main thread.
            *looks sternly over top of glasses at you*


          • Oh, right, I forgot, being in a relationship immediately invalidates everything I say, any feelings I have, and means I can never participate in any conversation here, even if its just a general statement taken from past experiences.

            Especially since my original comment and everything following has been a *general* discussion of dating and romantic worth.

            But pointing that out would get in the way of your snarky comments that you feel the need to make in nearly every thread I post here.

          • OtherRoooToo

            "being in a relationship immediately invalidates everything I say, any feelings I have, and means I can never participate in any conversation here, even if its just a general statement taken from past experiences"

            First of all, nobody even said all that.

            But I'm not going to get into the hyperbole and the obvious holes in your "logic" when you start spinning out threads like this, because they are blatantly obvious to anyone else reading – and I marvel, quite frankly, at the patience other commenters have with you – and I don't have the kind of time it takes to engage with you endlessly during your bottomless forays into (self-caused, maybe, even? could it be possible? could it, internet??) self-pity that spin out here.

            Second, I was not even talking to you.
            I will freely admit to this being the *second* comment I have made about you and your relationship (since you do go on about its flaws at length), especially when you are – however contradictorily – keening and wailing about *not* having one (all the while being apparently fairly oblivious as to the multiplicity of reasons why, which have nothing whatsoever to do with your looks – yes, I've seen your FB, and your profile you linked to, and your cosplay shots, and let me just interject here as an aside that those of us who are legitimately not optimally pleased with our looks do tend to be a great deal more camera-shy – and a vast amount more to do with the way you interact with people) and — setting aside how all that completely invalidates the concerns of anyone who is *not* in as fortunate a situation as you are, in that you have something they would very much like to have — I will merely point out, in a way meant to further underscore the degree of hyperbole with which you communicate in this environment on this and related subjects, given that you have decided to attack me directly and I, unlike some of the limitlessly gracious people who post here, will push back when someone attacks me directly, that
            two comments =/= "nearly every thread you post here".

            Because, LOL.

            And finally, if you're so miserable in said relationship as you made so clear as to intimate the last time I commented on your teeth-gnashing on this particular subject, perhaps to get yourself a ticket to this event, which is being held in your hometown this weekend, and to which I wish I could go.

            Perhaps – with all your charm and how you engage with people so lovely and never attack them and are never unpleasant with them and all – if you're so unhappy with the relationship in which you currently find yourself as you previously outlined, you might be able to find someone new.
            You're welcome.

            Enjoy yourself, and good luck.

          • No, you just made a snarky comment about "actual facts." As if my being a relationship invalidates my comments…. because why else would me being in a relationship matter? And where did I claim I wasn't? And yet… snarky comment.

            No, you don't engage… you just make mean, cutting comments. Like how YOU would totally appreciate compliments! Or how that cutting comment was just SO funny! So you don't engage, but you sure do follow. One can't help but speculate why you involve yourself-why you make such harmful comments (and they ARE harmful), why you constantly go on and on about how you just can't stand me and yet won't go away.

            And no, I don't go on about my relationship at any length. I've talked about it a handful of times, nearly all of them on the forum. And yeah, I have struggles with it… am I not allowed to? Am I not allowed to express them because YOU somehow take it personally that because YOU don't have a relationship, I should automatically be 100% happy and satisfied in mine, because a relationship Fixes All?

            You place a FUCK load of assumptions on me. Like because I have pictures, I must not *really* think I'm ugly. Forget the hundreds of photos I've untagged or begged NOT to be taken of. Have you noticed most of my photos are of sewing pictures? Because I am proud of my SEWING and it's kind of hard to display those without showing myself? But, nope, I must be a big ol' liar.

            And yes, I finally got fed up with you and confronted you directly, because you are just fucking *relentless.* Which, fine, I piss you off, but then WHY comment here? Why read my threads? Why make snippy comments about "facts" and "spitting out coffee" and "I'd LOVE your advice"? And yeah, it's two threads *lately*…. which followed a thread in which you told me I was racist, and a private message in which you went on and on about how insufferable I am. And that's just since September, off the top of my head.

            Why? Real, honest question here: why?

            If you're so unhappy that you need constantly highlight how you somehow have it worse (you're camera shy so that means you actually think you're ugly, you don't have a relationship like me, you can't go to events!, you're just *not as fortunate*) then why aren't YOU doing anything about it? Why aren't you posting threads, why aren't you writing in the forum? Why is it the only time I see you pop up is just to undermine me?

          • OtherRoooToo

            One thing at a time.

            First, I don’t appreciate being sworn at. It’s rude, disrespectful, inappropriate, and above all unnecessary, and I am not one to use the Geek Social Fallacies to excuse behavior (like yours here) when people act like they’ve been raised by wolves (like you are doing here).

            I’ve seen you speak like this to other commenters here – swear at them and be rude to them – and not only is it completely incomprehensible to me why they put up with it, but, also again, if you behave that same way with people in meatspace, it is absolutely no wonder you can’t seem to sustain the relationship you *say* that you’re looking for.

            (Although, via the descriptions of them you’ve provided here, the people you pick for boyfriends are so far from what you describe as your ideal partner that if you were a man I were getting to know and you were telling me one thing and doing another like that, I’d tell you flat out – as you’d already know if you knew anything about my relationship history from what you (have failed to) read here, but we’ll get to that – that your words all too clearly do *not* match your actions.)

            Now, let’s talk about the assumptions YOU have made.


          • You don't want people to swear at you, don't passive-aggressively snark about them in their own threads. It's called provocation, and it's called bullying. If you're mean and snarky and rude (and you are), it's incredibly dishonest to then act all offended when someone takes a verbal swing at you.

            You wind me up, and I think you know you do. Don't poke at me and poke at me, and then get mad when I finally snap.

          • Delafina

            "You wind me up, and I think you know you do. Don't poke at me and poke at me, and then get mad when I finally snap."

            Oh, no you don't. You own your own behavior, and you don't get to blame other people for it. If someone's "winding you up," that's not an excuse for bad behavior on your part. You have the option to disengage. If you choose to engage in nastiness, that is your decision.

          • I have disengaged. I have done nothing but ignore her for months. Go back through my comments if you don't believe me.

            If ignoring doesn't work, if telling her to leave me alone doesn't work, what am I supposed to do?

          • Delafina

            If you have been ignoring her, how do you know the content of her comments to reply now?

          • …. Because she posts in my threads, and I can read them when I'm scrolling?

          • Delafina

            So, just skip them? I mean, if they were one or two sentences, I could see how you couldn't avoid reading them, but most of her posts are pretty long, so as soon as you see the username, just skip down to the next one.

          • OtherRoooToo

            -2 –

            (Some of them, anyway, because not only do I not have all day to spend here, as you seem to, but also unlike you appear to – or at minimum, behave as though I don’t believe the entire universe revolves around me and my problems.)

            WWRT why I read “your” threads. First of all, Miss Negative Narcissist Nancy, it is neither *your* thread nor *your* blogspace, and until I am told otherwise by the actual owner of said space, I will read what I please and comment where I please.

            Which leads me to comment on your second hyperbolic description. You can poll other commenters if you feel you just must, or you can look at my commenting history – there are plenty of other people I correspond with here, in great part because they are far more collegial than you, but also because I am interested in topics other than your personal love life – to document for yourself that I do in fact comment many other places here, if you just must satisfy your curiosity on that point for some reason.

            (Ironically, given your latest attack on me here, I suspect the reason you haven’t noticed is that you are so wrapped up in your own wailing wall of problems that I wouldn’t – and don’t – expect you to notice anything anyone else is doing. I have a feeling you’re going to struggle with this conceptually, but not everything is about you.)

            I don’t have an interest in laying out the great majority of my relationship woes here in great part because of the emphasis on it being for the “nerd to get the GIRL”, so (despite protests from some commenters whose POV I can’t even comprehend that this is “a feminist space” :-/) I’m not assuming a reception by a completely sympathetic audience. Further, as not only a woman, but also multiracial – because to forestall protestations by any man who thinks he has something to contribute who does not have a full grasp of the situation’s nuances and/or a dearth of experience with it, multiracial, multicultural, and interracial dating are further complicated (and none of the three is “simple” out of the box) by gender in ways men don’t have to deal with – I don’t imagine my situation is going to be one about which many other commenters are going to either be terribly empathetic – of which dearth of feeling you continue to be a stunning example – nor terribly instructive.


          • OtherRoooToo

            -3 –

            Moreover, WRT those matters I can – and do, to put the lie to yet another of your rather egregious assumptions – seek more, different, and better counsel elsewhere on the specific subtleties of my situation (including other spaces where I notice you no longer comment frequently (but where people, AMOF, have actually asked for me, not because I’m just that cool but quite possibly because I don’t treat them like I’m about to describe you do) because people don’t like the way you exhaust them by wailing about problem after problem, demanding they satisfy you with solution after solution, rejecting everything they say, and never thanking them for the effort they made on your behalf – all while being horribly, horribly rude to them for even daring to try to help you).

            So that ^^ has a lot to with the reason I don’t obsessively post threads in the forum and subthreads here, to answer your question directly – if your question was in fact a demand that everyone rise to the level of the verbosity of *your* output. Not that I’m under any obligation to explain myself to you, of all people.

            As I have told you in communications both private and public, since you’ve elected to go there, I actually *share* a great number of your views on how geek girls are treated – and mistreated – and you actually have some extremely valuable things to say on the subject (that is, when you’re not wailing about the problems you refuse to solve by addressing some of your own issues, or being horrible – borderline abusive, really – to people when they don’t provide absolutely the ideal “solution” for you (other than you dealing with your own viciousness and lack of empathy, of course) via that other thing you consistently demand, which is reading your mind).

            I am also interested in what people say *to* you. Just because you’re the person doing the most talking, it does not necessarily follow that you are the ONLY person worth listening to, even if you are trying your best to dominate a given conversation (with your unrelenting misery WRT relationships).

            Moreover – and again, you’d already know this if you’d looked at my comment history outside of what you perceive as “your” threads – there are plenty of things I do, in an attempt to fail better, as it were. I *do* attend events. I *do* go on dates. I *do* make a significant effort to work on my communication skills. And really, at the end of the day, none of that is really any of your business – but now that you’ve opened that evidentiary door, one of the reasons I don’t have the success you have, with your noxious personality and abusive communications, is that as a multiracial person (again, as I commented to the Doc downthread despite your steadfast belief that I have nothing to say here) I (and women like me) have barriers to dating and long-term permanent relationship in this culture (and others like it) that *you do not*. It’s really that simple.

            (It’s that simple because we’re not going to get into the difficulties I and women like me have to grapple with, because you have no empathy for anyone’s problems but your own, and I refuse to subject my feelings on such sensitive topics to the bludgeonings of someone, in particular, who has already proven to be obliviously insensitive to them with an added side of “refusal to even try to comprehend”. A great big “no” and also a “why would anyone with any sense” goes there.)


          • Gentleman Horndog

            "[N]ever thanking them for the effort they made on your behalf"

            To be strictly fair, I can remember Marty thanking somebody for their effort. Twice. Might have happened a few times more.* As I recall, it required a degree of patience and empathy that simply astounded me. I suspect the one of the thank-ee's PhD in psychology didn't hurt.

            But you're not the only one to enter a conversation with Marty with the best of intentions and walk away exasperated. Any time she sounds-off on why her life is terrible, any impulse I have to interact now must run a fairly punishing gauntlet of "Is this REALLY worth your time?"-type questions before I indulge it, because I've seen this movie, and I know how it ends. The impulse usually collapses around the third "Seriously, bro, REALLY?"

            * — I'm not indulging in hyperbolic snark here. It occurred to me "Good Lord, has Marty ever thanked ANYBODY for trying to help when she asks for it?" And then it happened; I think multiple times, even. It's why I no longer think she's deliberately pity-trolling. But knowing where the bar is set, I'm pretty sure I can't reach it.

          • So don't! If you don't want to, if it's not worth your time-cool, fine. I have never *wanted* people's pity. I have wanted their discussion and their thoughts and their analysis, and I *have* wanted guys in similar positions to recognize it isn't a gendered issue, and I *have* wanted discussion/recognition that our culture still places a high value on women's looks…. but I have never wanted your pity, or your sympathy, or your exasperation! If that's the feeling I inspire in you, well, okay, good thing no one is forcing you to interact with me.

            There are plenty of people here who I find equally exasperating. But I think it's cowardly and a little cruel to continually complain about how *their* feelings/personality wears on *me.* They are not having feelings *at* me. If I am encountering them, it's because I am choosing to engage with them. If I am choosing to engage with them, then how is it their fault if they exasperate me? I choose to do it!

            Now that doesn't mean I can't walk away, or choose to disengage again-but to complain elsewhere or even *in their thread* about how much they annoy me? How is that fair? How is that productive? How is that not kind of mean, that you see someone who IS having a difficult time (whether you think they brought it on themselves or not) and decide you're going to add to their difficulties by then complaining about how it makes you feel, when they aren't doing anything AT you?

            Furthermore…. has it ever occurred to you that I thank people privately? Because I feel really embarrassed doing it in such a public way? No?

          • OtherRoooToo

            "[N]ever thanking them for the effort they made on your behalf"

            To be strictly fair, I can remember Marty thanking somebody for their effort. Twice. Might have happened a few times more.*

            Well, if you look carefully – which I fully concede is tricky to do in a wall of words, LOL – you’ll note that I was making reference to a different site on which she and I both participate … where she stopped participating so frequently after she had exhausted several other commenters’ sympathy, resource ideas, and suggestions on pretty much the exact same concerns she ruminates about here (prior, I also note, to coming here so frequently, though I would only imply, as opposed to unequivocally assert, that correlation equals causation in this situation).

            I also notice she’s done it more here since she’s been called out in public for *not* doing it. (And … I’ll just leave that there.)

            As I recall, it required a degree of patience and empathy that simply astounded me. I suspect the one of the thank-ee's PhD in psychology didn't hurt.

            No argument. None whatsoever.

            As I referred to elsewhere (where I was commenting to someone else *smile*), I dated someone like this. He shot holes in any suggestion offered – which suggestions he had solicited, mind, as possible solutions to problems he had raised and said he wanted to solve.

            (Was he lying to himself? To me? Both? You get to the point where it doesn’t matter, because there are about a thousand other far more productive things you can be doing with your time.)

            It also became increasingly clear to me that as far as communication went in disagreements, I was the only one of the two of us who could never make a mistake, who could never get angry even if provoked or if promises to me were broken, who could never communicate less than perfectly. Um, no. I’m also human, and I don’t believe in being held to a standard that the other person in the relationship is not willing to hew to.

            Come to think of it, the parallels are a little scary – which was why I had to leave, which distressed me for more than one reason, because he’s otherwise quite gifted, and could be a lot of fun. (And that seems to me to be a fairly common “dating nerd” problem, and it doesn’t come up often enough as a problem to tackle in the “geek relationship” community, IMO. That’s a different, albeit related, discussion, though.) But there were also too many promises made on which he couldn’t – or refused to – deliver.

            But exposure breeds experience in how to extricate oneself from a bad situation, I guess. And I certainly did hone my communication skills.

            I learned an enormous amount about how to hear a request (and how to “hear” its absence if a person is demonstrating that they expect you to read their mind), about different ways to try to respond – and also a lot more about limits, boundaries, and at what point to throw in the towel if you’re not getting back what you give (or at least the equivalent in what you want of what you’ve given that the other person wants).

            So now – in an attempt to shift the subject once and for all, LOL – I’m looking for someone who knows how to ask for what he wants, and who is willing to “settle for” “just” a 90+% skill level in intimate relationship communication. Or at least for a willingness to continue to improve. 🙂

          • Well, if you're ever in northern Minnesota, send me a message. 🙂

          • OtherRoooToo


            I'm not sure how far you are from Minneapolis – where I do have friends and some business interests – but some other people in the thread have expressed interest in an event there I posted about upthread.

            It is ladycentric, but I can't imagine that dudes wouldn't be welcome there, so I'll post it again — maybe if it's not too geographically inconvenient and your schedule permits, it might be worth looking into …?

          • I'm in Duluth, so it's about a three hour drive.

            That event looks neat, but I'm unemployed, so I doubt I'd have much to add there, plus it would be rather awkward explaining where I found out about it. 🙂

          • Certainly not my blogspace…. but it is my thread. It is the thread I started, and it's my comment that people are replying to. More importantly, you're not commenting specifically on what other people say on it… you're using other people's comments to gets digs in.

            Like the comment above. Sure, you didn't *respond* to me, but you used someone's comment as a way to passive-aggressively make a point ("oh we shouldn't concern ourselves with facts!") And sure, read and comment where you choose-but you do realize it's pretty hypocritical to roll your eyes and moan about how frustrating/annoying/negative I am, while *actively participating*? You KNOW you find me annoying, and yet you engage. And then you snark about how annoying I am.

            It's like standing in the rain, complaining about getting wet yet refusing to come inside. You want to stop being annoyed by me? Hey, *not engaging in my thread* is a pretty great way to start! You want to have conversations with folks? Cool! There's this great button down near the bottom that you can use. Then you don't have to deal with me AT ALL.

            But you don't do that. You come in, you snark.

            Fine, you correspond with people. Swell. But why are you doing it anywhere near me? Why do you go on and on and on about how awful and hateful I am instead of just avoiding me all together? Who is holding a gun to your head and forcing you to make snarky comments in my threads? No one-so why *are* you?

          • I know you're pissed at OtherRoooToo, but I have to say that I don't agree with you about who the thread belongs to. It doesn't belong to you just because you began it. It belongs to everyone who chooses to participate.

          • Fine, I'll give ya that. But that still doesn't explain how a person can see that I began it, and know that I'll probably comment heavily in it.

            I've tried very, very hard to NOT comment in other people's threads, either here on the forum, because I don't want to force anyone to engage with me who doesn't want to. By starting a thread, I am hanging a big ol' "I am Here" sign, so anybody who I annoy or bother can steer clear if they choose.

            So when I say "my thread," I just mean… I'm trying so hard already to keep my interaction here to a minimum. Why more can I literally do, short of not posting? (Which I'm sure some people would be thrilled by.) If I'm already being super obvious about my involvement, why come in in the first place if you know I piss you off??

          • I can't answer that question, since I'm not the person it's directed at. But I really do appreciate your clarity on what your starting a thread does and doesn't imply about ownership. Thanks for that. 🙂

          • OtherRoooToo

            -4 –

            And that is a nice neat segue to the final things I have to say about all this. I did *not* call you a racist. I said what you said was racist, and I stand by that.
            It *is* racist. (And, as I have mentioned already several times, in some hopes that perhaps you’ll get the point, completely devoid of empathy. “It’s all about ME!” should be the title of your theme song.)

            This may enlighten you to the difference between those two concepts – “you ARE a racist” – which I did NOT say – and “WHAT YOU SAID/DID was racist”. It’s not that difficult.
            Moreover, I also don’t appreciate your overdramatic histrionics as an attempt both to mischaracterize what I said and frame me as the “bad person”, nor do I appreciate them as a deliberate attempt – however antiquated, because I think we’re going on about a year now since that half-conversation took place – to derail either that conversation (in which case you proceeded to ignore *me*, if we’re going to drag out all sorts of past ills you believe you suffered) or this one.

            Now of course, I’m sure you’re going to reply. As I think I’ve told you before – you know, one of those times you just couldn’t be so bothered to respond – you’re like my grandmother in that you just HAVE to have the last word. And you go right ahead, for all the good it’ll do you. I replied in great part because I really didn’t feel like being slandered in public on a forum where there are other commenters I respect & admire and whose virtual company I enjoy, but you have plenty of other people from whom to continue to demand sympathy, counseling, and advice (despite your continued and steadfast refusal to take it). So I’m done here.

            You have yourself a nice day.

          • Christine

            That video is great. Bookmarked under Inspiration!

          • The Simple Man


            YOU ARE AWESOME!

          • It isn't histrionics. Thanks for devaluing my feelings. I have emotions-I must be a drama queen. Please, don't actually consider whether what you've said has hurt my feelings, or if you've behaved badly at all…. no, it's just easier to hand-wave it away as me "overreacting." Hmm, that sounds familiar.

            And yes, I did ignore you. I've been ignoring you for a while now, because when someone pisses you off and you don't like them but you exist in the same space, that's what you should do. You do your thing, I do mine. But I finally got to the last straw, because I *genuinely* do not get WHY you act this way. Why you snark, why you don't just leave me alone. Because everything you've said and done has been rude and undermining and ultimately, to me, cruel.

            I can I both ignore you and need to have the last word?

            And you've manipulated me into a corner. Either I don't respond, and everything you say goes unchallenged, or I respond, and "aha! see! she has to have the final word!" So… why NOT respond?

            I only have one request: don't respond in my threads. Is that *really* so hard? You want to have conversations here, go have them in a place where I can avoid you, and you can avoid me. Why is this such an enormous request?

          • Delafina

            Damn, that was epic.

          • OtherRoooToo

            I sent you a note.

          • Yeah it's really epic to say something that hurts someone else's feelings when they've asked you to leave them alone. Totally cool behavior.

          • Delafina

            She said some things that needed saying, and she didn't criticize you, she criticized your behavior. If she were to continue hammering at the points, that might be mean. But what she did there was not mean. It may have been *harsh,* but I don't see anything mean-spirited in it.

          • Christine

            Thanks for posting the info about the event. Hope they come back to NY some time!

    • eselle28

      I think there's a few ways someone could be romantically valuable without having a line of people who want to date them:

      – They might be in the wrong market. What's attractive to people in one setting isn't necessarily universally desired.
      – They might not be advertising much, limiting their options to people who aren't necessarily looking for romantic partners or people who are lukewarm on them as romantic partners.
      – They might have a lot of things going for them, but also one or two fix-it issues that are preventing people from seeing the value. I hate to use property analogies, but what I'm thinking of here is the equivalent to a house that sells quickly after getting a fresh coat of paint and some landscaping touch ups.
      – The perception of "no one" might be off. We regularly call out male commenters here about the range of women they're willing to consider dating, so I think it's only fair to do so here. I know very, very few people who don't have any requirements for a romantic partner, and in most cases, "no one" translates to "no one who I'd like to date."

      • I dunno, in the past when I was single I did have requirements, but they almost always went out the window. Like, probably my biggest dating requirement was the guy approaching me and wanting to date me. And yet, I was always the one pursuing, and despite my dislike of casual sex, I slept with guys before being "officially" dating because I was told I HAD to. So while I had requirements, they were requirements I buried…. and yet it still was nearly impossible to get anyone interested.

        Market is a difficult thing. I totally get what you mean…. but at the same time, how many people fit into enough of a niche that they can market themselves so effectively? In terms of wanting kids and not being a fan of casual sex, my mother always told me I should date Christian guys-but single Christian guys would HATE me for my age, my political views, and the fact that I'm only against casual sex, not all non-marriage sex.

        So what do you do when you don't fit into literally any market?

        • celette482

          Hey now, not all Christian guys are abstinence before marriage or politically conservative

          • I have yet to meet any that aren't one of those two things, and yet define themselves as strongly Christian.

            I'll grant you there's some nebulous Christian guys ("I go to church on Easter and Christmas"), but they aren't the Christian archetype that would dig, say, the child-wanting and casual-sex-disliking. As in, the Christian guys who dig those things are the Christian guys who also dig abstinence and being politically conservative.

          • I went to a pretty diverse Christian University, & my guy friends there ran the gamut of political views while still loving Jesus. Granted I never had much in depth conversations with them about the abstinence thing, but it stands to reason that varied a group would have different opinions.

            I never really liked that thing that American Christian(Bookstore) Culture did where you had to have certain political views to be counted as one of the Faithful. Especially when God Himself doesn't count that as a qualifier.

          • Delafina

            I know a couple devoutly Christian guys that aren't politically conservative and don't have particularly strong opinions on sex before marriage. So they're out there.

            But yes, the vast majority of people that strongly self-identify as Christian seem to also be pretty politically conservative.

          • Joy

            As an abstinent (but OK with more things than most for-religious-reasons people I know), reasonably politically conservative Christian (with several views that line up more with liberals, for example on environmental issues) who identifies as childfree–does not want kids, ever, not my own or anybody else's–I totally empathize on the "niche market" front. Logically speaking, there must be *some* middle-of-the-road or slightly-right-of-center Christian men who neither have nor want children; since I exist, one would think a male version of me must as well. But I have only ever met two, and they were both already married.

          • zmd

            I have a good friend, a former atheist who converted to Catholicism in college, who goes to church every Sunday and is super involved in the young adults group at his church. He absolutely has sex before marriage and before relationships. He also supports gay marriage, drug legalization, abortion rights, and is super liberal bordering on socialist. People can be into religion for all kinds of reason, and many of them kind of make it what fits them rather than trying to shove themselves into one form.

            Most of the guys I know are into casual sex, sure, but almost all of them would agree to wait until their female partner felt comfortable. However, you cannot expect a person you are casually dating to not casually date other people. If casually dating other people means sleeping with them, that's their deal. You can take it or leave it. Personally, I know a lot of guys who feel the way you do about sex.

          • I think it's about finding the right community. I know a whole group of Christian guys who are very much like what you describe – they are part of a liberal activist church group that does amazing work around social justice issues. Once you find one, you can track back to figure out where he goes for his own sense of community, which will tell you where to find other men with the same values.

        • eselle28

          I'm going to push you on the first point a bit. You're only interested in dating nerds. You have a fairly narrow age range of men who interest you. You date men who you find physically attractive. You want to date someone who's graduated from college, who doesn't have any children but who wants some, and who'd preferably never been married. I'm not saying these are unreasonable requirements (I have my own set of expectations and they're a large part of why I'm single), but you do have some requirements – even if in the past you've compromised on other ones.

          Well, it sounds like it's not really a problem for you at this point. If you were single, I think I'd suggest making some efforts to seek out the geek-adjacent – guys who like some geeky things but who for whatever reason don't fit well with your city's geek community. People who are new to your area from places where people generally settle down later in life might also be good targets. As it is, I think it might be healthy to chalk up your past negative results to poor fits and to focus on the fact that you found one good fit.

          • Well I don't really date nerds by choice. Like, that isn't a standard per say. It's more, why the hell would a non-nerd guy ever date me? For one, where would he even find me? For two, I bring nothing to the table that isn't nerd-centric. I've never HAD a non-nerd guy show even vague interest, so it's less I *must* date nerds and more, they're the only group I am attractive to.

            Is 25-34 really a narrow age range?…

            I'll grant you the college graduate and wanting kids, but again, it's less that I use that rule guys out and more we rule out each other. Why in the world would guys who don't want kids want to date me?? It just doesn't make a lot of sense.

            I am pleased I found a good fit. But it does occur to me that if he ever leaves me, I am pretty much staring down the barrel of Forever Alone. Ah well, always knew that was the higher likelihood.

          • eselle28

            You've said that in the past, but you also have indicated that you don't think you could be attracted to or feel very connected with someone who doesn't share a good portion of your interests.

            For whatever reason I remember your age range as being a few years narrower than that. I suspect wanting kids would be a situation where you'd mutually rule each other out, but let's be realistic about the college graduate point. That's you ruling someone else out. Guys who haven't finished college are, at least in my experience, just fine with dating women who have. I'm pretty picky about education as well, but that's definitely me doing the selecting and not the men.

            I want to be really clear here. I'm not pushing you to change your requirements. Frankly, I share quite a few of them myself. I just think it's important to acknowledge that "no one" means "not very many guys from the subset of men I'd be willing to date," just as we sometimes push guys to acknowledge that there are women who they're not asking out or paying attention to who might be up for dating them.

          • But this defeats the point of having standards to begin with.

            Guys who are having problems dating are aware that when they say the word women they mean the women they're interested and not the women that they're not interested in.

    • Vancouverois

      The criteria for friendship are generally much lower than and different from the criteria for choosing an exclusive life partner. I don't think that they can be compared all that meaningfully.

      As for the lack of surprise, I guess your friends and family are indirectly saying that THEY wouldn't want to date you. Which is at least as much a comment on them as it is on you. That isn't a criticism of either side, mind you; just a recognition that you would not be romantically compatible.

      (Though to be honest, you do seem to have an attitude that probably contributes to it. If you constantly brush off compliments and assurances from others the way I've seen you do here, it's no wonder if they've learned not to bother.)

      • Well still sort of the same thing, isn't it? It's still them acknowledging that I'm undesirable, which in my opinion, hurts a good deal more than surprise. If people are surprised that you're single, then you've probably just run into bad luck. But if people aren't surprised at all, then there probably IS something wrong with you, romantically.

        I don't brush off compliments or assurances, I just hate empty words. Compliments for compliments sake bug the heck out of me.

        • embertine

          Maybe those words aren't empty to them?

          This, I think, is what people are talking about when they say your attitude is contributing to the problem. A hypothetical scenario, if you will:

          Me: Wow, you look great, that dress is beautiful on you!
          Potential GF: Oh, you're just saying that.
          Me: You got a first in your degree, I am so proud of you.
          Potential GF: It's nothing, other people got much higher marks than me.
          Me: I love you.
          Potential GF: Sure you do, whatever.
          Me: You're right, fuck it. I am sick of having the nice things I say thrown back in my face. Outta here, bitches! [Exeunt, pursued by a bear]

          It's actually really insulting, so don't be surprised if people take that negativity personally.

          • And it's really insulting to give people compliments when 1) your primary motivation is to get them to like you, not because you genuinely think that compliment 2) it's a social lubricant and you're expressing a compliment because it's expected 3) you feel pressured to say something, either because you want to prove you're "nice" 4) you want the other person to shut up and stop whining, so you're trying to shut them down with a compliment, because if they accept your compliment then they can no longer keep whining.

            You call it rude to turn down compliments, I consider it rude to GIVE compliments unless there is absolutely no motivation behind it except absolute, genuine intentions.

            Are other people's need/desire to give me compliments somehow more important than my social discomfort/dislike over receiving them?

          • The problem is that your discomfort is rooted in a belief that the other person is either a) lying, b) conforming to social pressure, or c) bullying you – and that your belief seems to have more to do with your own issues than with anything the other person is actually doing or saying to indicate what their motivations might be.

          • Well in the specific situations being cited, it certainly DOES have something to do with what the other person is saying or acting…. When compliments are a result of either directly contradicting me or are trying to "pump me up" (Oh don't feel that way, I liked X!) then that pretty strongly suggests it's not genuine, and is rooted in one of those 4 reasons.

          • Yeah, the problem here is that you're more willing to assume someone else is a liar or a bully than that they genuinely disagree with you. That's going to be deeply off-putting to the vast majority of people.

          • I don't think they disagree with me automatically, it's that the circumstance and setting make me suspicious.

            And it should also be pointed out that how I act on the board, *in this specific instance*, is not how I act in real life, because I only discuss these sorts of things in long-term friendships. In the rare instance I get a compliment from a not-close-friend, I smile and change the subject (usually by complimenting them back because GAH social niceties and contract.)

            I should ALSO point out that I almost NEVER receive compliments in real life. The few times I do are from friends in the exact scenarios I outlined…. where the compliments come in the middle of one of my rants. Tell me that wouldn't make you suspicious, if your friends are ONLY complimenting you when you're complaining about being unattractive.

            So really talking about how I take compliments is rather a moot point.

          • Vancouverois

            "Tell me that wouldn't make you suspicious, if your friends are ONLY complimenting you when you're complaining about being unattractive."

            That isn't suspicious at all. It's entirely natural for friends to feel an impulse to reassure you if you're expressing doubts or insecurities. It may not be the reaction you want at the time, but that doesn't make it 'suspicious'.

            And it's prefectly normal for friends not to go around spontaneously complimenting each others' appearances, unless you've specifically dressed up for some occasion. Why would they?

          • Exactly. Reassurance is NOT genuine. It means the compliment is intended to do something…. it's purpose is not just to exist, as a statement of fact, but is meant to mean something else; that they're expressing it not because they feel it, but because they want some kind of outcome from it (you feel reassured, you feel less insecure.) The compliment is now a tool.

            I spontaneously compliment my friend's appearances because that's when the compliment pops in my head. If I feel something genuinely (and it doesn't hurt people), that's when I should express it. If I'm hoarding it or expressing it at other times, then it takes on other meanings that "Hey I just actually felt this."

            A compliment should be an expression of feeling or opinion, NOT some way to subtly shift a dynamic. And that's *why* I view compliments with suspicion, because so often they are tools, NOT genuine forms of feelings.

          • Vancouverois

            No, reassurance means that the person didn't realize that you NEEDED reassurance until you voiced your negative opinion.

            If anything, I'd find the opposite insulting. "Don't worry, you look great!" is reassuring if I've been worrying aloud that I look bad; but If somebody said it to me out of the blue, THAT is when I might interpret it as an insult.

          • Well no freaking duh you'd be insulted if they said "Don't worry!" in front of it. But if they jsut say "You look great!" then you probably wouldn't be.

            And voicing a negative opinion does not mean you need reassurance. And that still supports my point that then the compliment isn't genuine, it's some other form of social interaction, and I don't LIKE compliments given as "reassurance."

          • Vancouverois

            Actually, "you look great" out of the blue can still be interpreted as insincere, whether prefaced with "don't worry" or not. It's the context that matters. So does the source – if it comes from a friend, I'm far less likely to interpret it as a sarcastic insult.

            Yes, voicing a negative opinion doesn't necessarily mean you want reassurance. But it's perfectly natural for people to interpret it that way, and to respond accordingly. It isn't some sinister attempt to manipulate you into liking them.

            And no, if somebody offers a compliment because they believe you want to be reassured, that does NOT automatically mean the compliment is insincere.

          • zmd

            I am stunned that you seem to either be complete incapable of placing yourself on the other side of that scenario, or have never been on the other side. Have you never had a friend come to you because they are upset about something they think they did wrong, or an outfit they think doesn't make them look good, a classmate who asks you read over her essay because she thinks she may have messed it up, or a coworker who is unsure of how good his or her work is? You don't feel an instinct to point out the true positives when a friend is beating themselves up? Like if a friend wrote a story and was like "uhhh I just think the ending is stupid," you wouldn't want to say "no, I think it's great," assuming it was great. And if it wasn't, you could say "well, I can see how you might think it needs work. Can I suggest…..?"

          • Is it possible for a compliment to be both? Just because something is purposeful doesn't mean it isn't genuine.

            When I watch the progress on a video my husband is making, or a script he is writing, I will compliment him on how he handled an element or wrote a point. These compliments have some ulterior drive – to motivate him to keep working (because he, like me, gets in the procrastination doldrums & the pride of a finished product will snap him right out.) However, those compliments are completely genuine and heartfelt. I don't say what I don't mean, and I wouldn't have given a compliment I didn't believe it. In that case, the intentional timing & delivery did not negate the meaning.

            Now this is all in the hypothetical and the theoretical. I don't want it to sound like I'm making ill-informed judgements of your life. Though should we ever meet up and go to get an ice-cream or something, you are getting complimented. Because I resolved in high school to acknowledge people's awesomeness when I think they deserved, and I keep finding different breeds of awesomeness in everyone I meet.

          • So long as you're complimenting my awesomeness without any kind of motivation, ulterior motive, or agenda, and it's genuine, then okay fine, I'll smile and say thanks.

            I'm not going to say how you should compliment people or how people should like to be complimented. I'm just saying that I, personally, do not take compliments well when there is an ulterior motive…. and I don't really appreciate people telling me I have a "bad attitude" because I want a compliment that doesn't come with some underlining meaning.

          • Well, if my compliment is 'I love how you've done your hair', I may follow up with a 'What advice do you have for my Hermione pouf?'

            Certainly not an ulterior motive, more of a tacked on one. 😀

          • Patrick

            If I was constantly posting "my third eye in the middle of my forehead makes it hard for me to get a date", I would not be surprised when people respond "wait, I'm looking at your Facebook pictures right now and YOU DO NOT HAVE A THIRD EYE."

          • Vancouverois

            Actually, that's pretty much the experience that I've had with Marty on this very comment board.

          • OtherRoooToo

            You can give me compliments. I like your style. 🙂

          • Vancouverois

            Well, thank you kindly! I like your style too (there you go!) 🙂

          • OtherRoooToo

            *beams at you*

          • And perhaps that's why I am distrustful of compliments, because they seem to be trying to "prove" something, instead of engaging with me about how I feel and my experiences. Facebook photos don't tell the whole story.

          • Max

            People give you compliments. You are inherently distrustful of people, and assume the worst in what they say, and respond negatively and aggressively. People get tired of this, and stop interacting with you.

            This is the problem with your friendship/dating life. Nothing else.

          • How about people NOT give compliments in the first place once they figure out I don't like them? Why are people giving compliments (enough to get tired of giving them and being "insulted" by my negativity) in the first place if I didn't respond all that well in the first place?

            If someone did something that you didn't like or enjoy and made you uncomfortable, is it somehow your job to be okay with it so they'll keep interacting with you?

            I don' on this board, and I DON'T get why that is a problem or an issue for so many people.

          • eselle28

            Once people realize (and it might take you talking about it specifically) that you don't like compliments, they shouldn't give you any.

            As for the second paragraph, that does happen, I suspect to all of us. There are definitely people who don't want to hang out with me because I've asked them not to use certain epitaphs or have requested they stop inviting me to religious events. I get to have my boundaries, and they get to choose if they want to interact with me in a way that respects those boundaries or not interact with me at all.

          • Agreed! People get to be like "Well giving compliments is extremely important to me, so I'm not going to interact with someone who doesn't take them well." No quibble there.

            I just did not like the implication that because I am deeply uncomfortable with compliments, I have a "bad attitude." I'm sure you wouldn't be thrilled if after you turned down going to a religious event, people started claiming you were "anti-religion," right? Disliking a religious event in a very specific scenario does not make you anti-religion all over.

          • eselle28

            Well, that actually makes things tricky, because I am anti-religion at least insofar as religion might possibly apply to my life! But I get what you're saying.

            I think people's response (not so much on here, but in real life) might vary depend on how things are communicated. If I scowl at my friend and decline every time she invites me to religious events, she might figure out that I don't judge her for caring about religion but have no interest in it myself and move on. She might also think that I object to her being religious, though, or have some bias against her particular faith. If I say something, at least she can make her choice whether to keep interacting with me based on my actual motives, whether or not she finds that acceptable.

          • Haha oh well, there goes my metaphor. I really need to find a better way of communicating than metaphors…

          • eselle28

            I think the fault is mine, since it was initially my metaphor!

          • Max

            I think the reaction your getting comes from the fact that you're making a negative judgement on the person giving you a compliment, and responding negatively and aggressively. I said this below, but while it's okay to not feel great about compliments, I don't think it's okay to respond to people like they're trying to hurt or manipulate you, at least not right away.

            As an example, something that I've seen happen here a lot: You'll mention how you see yourself as fundamentally ugly, and some new commenter will respond along the lines of, "Hey, I looked at your Facebook pics and actually you're quite cute." And every time, you will respond with a tone of, "Fuck off, asshole!"

            Now this could be a person who has never talked to you before on here, but your inherent reaction is almost always hostile. And that's not okay. It would be better if it was more like "I appreciate what you're trying to do, but it isn't actually very helpful."

            Also, if you notice, those commenters usually never talk to you again.

          • 1) Tone over the Internet is highly subjective. I do have some control over it, with the words I'm choosing…. but when it comes to the Internet, there's only so much adjusting I can do. *Most* of my comments could be read as "Fuck off asshole" because I write in a generally very forward way. Not sure if you've noticed, but pretty much everything I write comes across as rather aggressive.

            Hell, even in real life, my tone is described as "brisk" at best. I try softening it, and then give up because ya know what, damn it, making strangers feel fuzzy about my tone of voice over the Internet when I'm feeling emotionally vulnerable is something that I have just decided I don't want to pour the energy into.

            Sorry they read it as "fuck off asshole." It's not, but I'm also not that compelled to change for total strangers. I'm *especially* not compelled to change for strangers who, by "complimenting" me, are undermining a point *I am trying to make.*

            IF it's not a warm-and-fuzzy comment, it's because I am *sick of death* of trying to make a point and having it undermined by "Oh well *I* don't think you're ugly." That *wasn't the point*, and I don't really appreciate the derailment over, and over, and over again.

            Is the fault of the interaction on me, or on them? Cause I could easily ask why someone is so readily scared off by a "brisk" tone. If I offended them that easily, I'm probably gonna do it again! So it's perhaps better that they got away early.

          • Max

            I would say the fault of the interaction is on you, because you are the one turning the discussion hostile.

            Believe me, I too communicate briskly and in a way that can come off more negatively than I intend (see: all my posts in this thread). But when people respond harshly, it's my fault, not theirs.

          • No, I am not.

            A stranger comes up and hugs you. They don't know if you like being hugged… they don't know if they should touch you, if it might make you highly uncomfortable. But hey, they do it anyway, because it makes THEM feel good, because what sort of awful person doesn't like a hug?

            Is it then *your* fault if you react with a little hostility because you don't like being hugged?

            If a person sent me a PM with a compliment, I'd probably awkwardly say "uh thanks" and move on. But they're not. They're complimenting me in public, in front of a lot of people, without even *trying* to think about whether what they're about to do might set off discomfort in me. They are publicly *forcing* me to deal with a social interaction I find deeply unsettling, AND they are distracting from the actual point of what Im trying to say. So not only are they making me uncomfortable *in public*, they are slapping a "done" onto the conversation.

            I should not have to deal with that, and I should not *have* to bury my feelings. I *don't* tell them to fuck off, I *am not* rude…. At best, my tone is "kind of hostile."

            If people don't want hostile, they *shouldn't compliment strangers in public.* Just like we don't hug strangers, and we don't walk up to women and tell them to "Smile!", we shouldn't force other people into situations that have a strong potential for making them uncomfortable.

          • Vancouverois

            This is an egregiously false parallel.

            Somebody groping you without your permission is very obviously an assault. Somebody complimenting you because you've been running yourself down is not.

          • Except a hug is not a grope. You are exaggerating it for effect.

            Let's say just a regular, one-armed hug. It's a hug that most people would be perfectly fine and comfortable with and has no "assault" qualifications around it.

            It's just that you don't like being touched.

            It's a parallel because I'm talking entirely about personal comfort and boundaries. Some people would be uncomfortable with a hug just solely on the fact that they don't dig hugs, not because the hug is somehow assault.

            And fine, if the hug metaphor bothers you, then go with the "Smile!" metaphor. I mean, no big deal right, they're just telling you to smile, cause your smile is so pretty! That's a compliment!

            And yet it makes certain people uncomfortable.

            The point is if you're going to do something to make the other person feel "better," you should actually find out first if it'd *make them feel better.*

          • Vancouverois

            No, the situation you describe is groping. A hug is an invasion of personal space, and it is completely unacceptable when it comes from a total stranger. That's a physical assault, plain and simple.

            When people take offense at being told to smile, it's generally because they see it as a (sexist) command that shows disregard for feelings that they're already showing pretty clearly on their face. It's a negation. The person saying it is indicating that they consider the other person's feelings to be invalid or unimportant. That may not be how they mean it, but it's easy to understand how it can be perceived that way in many circumstances.

            Complimenting somebody simply isn't comparable. It isn't an attack or a negation, and under most circumstances I don't think it's reasonable to expect people to assume or even understand that you're going to see it that way.

          • Fine, then make it a friend instead. Make it a family member! Make it someone who has absolutely no ill intentions, who comes from a culture where hugging is just what you do in social situations, and then have them hug someone who doesn't like to be touched.

            Does the person being hugged not have a right to be uncomfortable and request that people *not hug them*?

            I DO see it as a negotiation. I am feeling something, I am expressing something, and someone is coming along with a compliment that is a) beside the point and b) makes me uncomfortable, because I really don't like being complimented?

            Please, *please*, answer me this: why do I not have a right to my feelings? Why do I not get to say "this makes me uncomfortable, please do not do this"? Why is unreasonable to ask people to check before they put omeone in a socially uncomfortable position?*

            (And yes, it IS a socially uncomfortable position, or there wouldn't be dozens and dozens of articles and advice columns out there on "how to gracefully accept a compliment." If it was something that didn't make people uncomfortable, we wouldn't need to be instructing people on how to be comfortable.)

          • Vancouverois

            Of course you do have a right to your feelings; but you also have a responsibility for them.

            And sure, of course you have a right to ask people not to compliment you. But expecting people to ask other people spontaneously whether it's okay to give a compliment is not something you can really expect as a default.

            (It's also kind of pointless – if they're asking, that already means they have a compliment.)

          • Delafina

            Actually, in most US and UK jurisdictions, an uninvited hug is either assault or battery.

          • Max

            Saying nice things to people through internet comments is generally socially acceptable. For most people it's okay, especially if the topic is your looks (which, by saying that you think you're ugly, is a reasonable thing to assume).

            Hugging strangers is not socially acceptable pretty much anywhere. That's why your metaphor doesn't work.

            A better metaphor would be smiling at a stranger in public. In most cases, this is socially acceptable, but it would be reasonable if it made someone uncomfortable. It would not be reasonable for that person to respond "Don't fucking smile at me asshole!"

          • Vancouverois

            Yes! I actually used smiling as an example in a different reply to Marty.

          • Max

            "If someone did something that you didn't like or enjoy and made you uncomfortable, is it somehow your job to be okay with it so they'll keep interacting with you?"

            Only if you want people to keep interacting with you.

          • Ah, so my discomfort doesn't matter at all…. I have to put up with all discomfort and behavior I find questionable because otherwise no one will like me. Noted.

          • It's not impossible to learn to be more comfortable with things. And in this case, since learning to be comfortable hearing nice things about yourself isn't setting yourself up to be in danger of injury (of yourself or others), it's also a much more viable option than asking in your extremely brisk way, that the rest of the world change their speaking pattern to suit your tastes.

          • It isn't about asking them to change their speaking pattern. It is just asking to be understood, and to let me have my feelings about something that I feel deeply about.

            It isn't about hearing nice things. It's that the nice things are a distraction, a ruse. They derail, they miss the point. They make me uncomfortable and flare up my social anxiety for *no reason.* I don't want to be complimented, I want to be understood. I want to have meaning and discussion, not platitudes about something superficial.

            It does hurt me, because it sacrifices what I'm after (understanding, connection, discussion) for something superficial that just makes me feel *worse* about myself.

            Again this is not something I ask strangers or acquaintances to deal with. But if someone is my friend, my real friend, I want to know they accept who I am…. and the person I am is someone who would prefer real dialogue over superficial "nice things."

          • Okay, 1) That is a perfectly reasonable thing to want. 2) I'm sorry that I posted that comment before I read further into the comment thread. Having read more (and also having read your response), I, too, was missing the point.
            I do think it would ultimately be more helpful to you to become more comfortable with compliments, since, ultimately, compliments (when sincerely given) *are* supposed to make you feel better about yourself, not worse. However, that's not really a helpful thing to say for the immediate. 🙁 Sorry.
            If I may ask, though, why do they make you feel worse?

          • Because they flare up my social anxiety. I never know what to say back or how to respond. If I say "thanks" is that too brisk? Am I supposed to be *more* thankful? Will I look conceited if I just accept what they say on face value? Should I compliment them back?

            On the forum especially, it's awful because it's public. It's the equivalent of pulling someone up on stage, complimenting them and then shoving a microphone in their face. If a compliment wasn't what you were actually after, it can be really awkward and uncomfortable-and I think that's true for pretty much everyone. Because now I have to add an extra layer of "Can I ignore them without seeming like a bitch? Do I acknowledge them? How much? Can I go back to the discussion *I actually wanted to have* after, or will that look hostile?"

            My friend last night said compliments end conversations, and I think that's an important component too. If you're trying to have a conversation with a person, and they give you a compliment and nothing else… what are you supposed to do with that??

          • Here's a script I sometimes use when people compliment me when I'm not looking for it.

            "Thanks – that's so kind of you to say. But I still feel [continue with description of original issue]."

            Note that it acknowledges the other person's social generosity and their perception of you as more positive than your own, while also making it clear that what they're saying is not a good way to address your feelings or the issue at hand.

            If the person continues, I often say, "I understand what you're saying, but that's not helpful right now. Can we [have the conversation I would rather have]?"

            Note that I'm not making assumptions about their motivations, getting hostile, or letting my social anxiety drive the way that I respond to them. I'm just showing them how to interact with me in a better way.

            Now, that's a two-way street. It's on me to show them, but it's also on them to respond. But if I'm not doing my half of the work, it's rude and selfish for me to expect the other person to do theirs.

          • That makes sense. I guess I still wish we lived in a society where compliments weren't the "default social nicety," and where a person's social discomfort was taken into account, ya know?

            I've just read so many advice columns about people who feel deeply uncomfortable handling compliments, and it makes me wonder…. if this is such a wide-spread phenomenon, why DO we keep perpetuating the idea that everyone *should* be comfortable with compliments? Why aren't compliments like physical touch? I mean, physical touch can make you feel good and loved and appreciated, and yet we recognize there's a certain amount of social positioning that needs to happen before touch can be comfortably exchanged. Why not compliments as well? (To a much lesser extent, obviously, since compliments at worst lead to discomfort and anxiety and physical touch can be assault.)

          • kathrynmblair

            I think because it might cut out a huge amount of necessary interaction and general conversation?

            Also I think compliments and reassurance from people who are close to us is how most of us build up our self esteem. I am going through this with my therapist right now. I think I've told you this. But I got a lot of "Good job, but make sure you take into account ALL FEEDBACK" and now I feel like ALL FEEDBACK is vitally important, because I never had anyone say "don't listen to them, they're just being jerks."

            So it makes sense that if it's on the backs of compliments that people learned they are doing all right, they would want to do that for other people they think are doing just fine too. Having it not be a social norm might really harm people because they would not have that model for how to show positive feedback or appreciation of others.

            It also makes sense that if you had lots of reasons to believe that people give you false compliments while you are building up your own self image (as a kid or not), that you would not trust them. It's separating the pattern of motives from other people and assigning them to people giving you compliments now that causes trouble. Instead of taking them at their word or ignoring it, or trying to steer towards what you actually want.

            Out of curiosity, if people aren't to give any compliments, would that rule out all positive feedback? Giving no compliments at all would be safer than doing the "will they think I have an ulterior motive" mental math means you pretty much can't say anything nice about the other person, like "great set" or "you killed that run" or "Nice job on that even last week" or "boy do you throw a great party". I know many people do dislike compliments, but is it common to dislike all positive feedback? I think if complimenters were to understand where the difference was, that would be very difficult, and it would probably fall in a different place for ever person who dislikes being complimented. Like, if people were responding more positively to you, that could also be considered a compliment, and if they commented on an insightful point, that would be too. Where's a good line for you? (That is an actual question, maybe there is an obvious line that is generally-held by people who dislike being complimented).

            I know you don't want to do anything to fix this – in which case I don't think you should be surprised that people respond the way they do, even if you attribute the fault to them – but you might be able to lead people to not compliment you if you leave out the value judgments. If you don't say you look ugly, but if you instead say "tell me ways to dress that might flatter my body type" (as you've done, and you did get suggestions), people are more likely to just give you what you asked for, instead of feeling like they need to take a bicycle pump to your self-esteem. If it's a social situation that frustrates you, trying to avoid it isn't capitulating – it's making life easier for yourself. Until you are avoiding such that you can't take necessary risks.

          • Joy

            "That's so kind of you to say."

            One great thing about this wording is that you're not even expressing agreement with the compliment, just acknowledgement of the (presumably positive) intention behind it. So at least for me, I can use this phrase without feeling disingenuous even if I don't necessarily agree with the compliment (in fact, if I'm using that exact wording, chances are I *don't* quite agree with the assessment but still want to be polite and give a "thank you for saying a nice thing" response).

          • SarahGryph

            "That's so kind of you to say."

            I'm a big fan of that; because whatever they said really was kind of them and I appreciate that! I used to take compliments very poorly when I was younger, more from strangers than friends/family. My mom or grandma told me once that "Thank you" is always a polite response and that seemed to work for me.

            It also helps me to think of how *I* feel when I'm giving someone a compliment. I don't mean it as if they need to say something nice to me, or stop talking, or anything like that. I just saw something cool about them and wanted to share. So in most cases, I stick with that as my baseline. Pretty slick, actually – if they're trying to be nice I've thanked them for it and if they really DO have some weird ulterior motive it's in my head as "person said something nice" with nothing else attached. 😛

            EDIT: I'll also add that I feel like working on taking compliments better was something that was *good* for me. (Not speaking for anyone else.) The reason I took them poorly is because I tend to be hard on myself. I didn't work on it to be more polite or nicer…I worked on it because I felt like it was important for me to recognize that people see good things in me and appreciate that.

          • zmd

            Because it is a natural habit for people and it is too hard to break. You will die waiting for the world to stop giving you compliments. I'd like for everyone to be on time to everything and keep a joint calendar with me and always be happy to pick up their phone when I call, but those are unreasonable expectations and the world will never bend to my needs. I have to adjust my expectations based on what most people are willing to do, not the other way around.

          • I'd also quibble with the "lying." I never claimed someone is lying in any of my reasons. Lying is…. too black and white a term for it. When I ask the person in the drive through how their day is, I don't really care that much, but it's a social nicety. Am I lying? Eh, maybe strictly speaking, but it isn't a "lie" on the same level as telling your spouse you really love their family when you can't stand them.

            Social niceties are lies, technically, but they aren't lies in the common vernacular of the word. I don't think people are lying with their compliments, but I think they are engaging in social niceties, which I don't see as necessarily genuine.

          • eselle28

            Rather than asking whose needs are more important, it might just be useful to remember that someone in this situation is going to have to dramatically change their communication style and that some people might opt to disengage rather than to be the one to change – especially if the source of conflict isn't articulated.

          • enail0_o

            Eselle, this is so smart!

          • zmd

            Marty, honest question: Are there ever situations where someone compliments you, and you may not agree it is something worth complimenting, but you believe them? I have told you, several times, that I've looked through your pictures and I like your sewing, that I think you have a perfectly fine attractive body, that your new haircut suits you, probably a few other things, and the only thing that I felt like maybe you believed me on was the sewing. I don't have any skin in this game. There is no reason for me to compliment you unless I honestly believe it. The truth is, that's the case for most people. Unless you are super important or well connected or something, there is no reason for people to compliment you if they don't believe it.

            It may be compliments don't matter to you. That's fine, but you know that saying "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all"? I think compliments are like that, only in reverse "if you have something nice to tell someone, why hold back?" Why would you think the majority of compliments are anything other than genuine thoughts?

          • Waddles

            Yes, negativity can be quite offputting (and even sarcasm can too if not offset by good humour or charm). I understand how it's hard if you have mild depression or have had bad experiences meeting people in the past, but if you want to make friends it can be quite draining for other people to have to validate someone they've just met continuously, and like embertine says it can be frustrating or even insulting to have compliments thrown back at you. I'd rather hang out with someone who was positive, confident and outgoing than someone who treated everything i said with suspicion. People can also reciprocate behaviour, so if you're quiet or distrustful then that can reflect in how they behave towards you.

          • See but that's my point, I don't WANT them to validate me. I want no compliments or validations period, I just want to be listened to. I really, really hate compliments for that reason…. because the other person feels drained giving them (validation) when I don't even want them in the first place. I don't like people automatically assuming I'm fishing for compliments or validation when I'm just trying to talk about difficulties in life. Sometimes I just want to talk and be heard, ya know?

            If people don't want to be regarded with suspicion, then they shouldn't act suspiciously. And refusing to listen to me so they can rush in with validation, then turn around and judge me about "oh my gosh she's so draining, she requires all this validation" is pretty damn freaking absurd.

            Maybe if people stopped throwing compliments around so much, they wouldn't feel like they had to constantly validate people. Seems kind of like a chicken or the egg scenario there.

          • I think it's interesting that you assume that validating someone is in itself draining.

          • Well, um, people right here in this thread are saying it is…

          • eselle28

            Are those my comments? That's not actually what I was getting at. I think that the draining bit is, at least for many people, listening to others make negative statements about themselves. To a lesser extent, I think it's somewhat draining (though useful and necessary) to communicate in styles that don't come naturally to you.

          • Less your comments, more other people's.

          • AstralDazzle

            I would second this. I briefly hung out with a group who constantly complimented one another and it seemed, for my personal style of comfortable sincere communication, to be an example of what Marty is getting at in terms of ulterior motives of complimenting. It drained me to do it because it seemed requisite and sycophantic. I didn't get the sense that several of them even liked me that well. When I found myself complimenting someone insincerely, it felt icky, and I knew I was lying. That was a cue I need to make that a small doses group.

            But when I sincerely compliment someone, and I don't feel it's required to compliment in order not to draw someone's unending ire, it is not draining at all.

            I definitely used to exhaust others making negative statements all the time, and nowadays it can drain me to listen to a constant stream of self-negativity (So many people in my family either consider themselves beyond treatment or blame their awful lives on someone else, so they're not getting professional help, and I have to set boundaries and upset them by not constantly listening to the woe). A lot of people don't realize how hostile it would sound if it was directed at someone else!

          • Waddles

            I suspect that I'm missing something in your story (I tend to follow the comments on here only sporadically, sorry). People give out compliments all the time without really expecting anything in return – what I was pointing at was that it can be a bit of a drag to say "I like that hat" or whatever and get self-loathing back. If that's not what you're getting at, I'm sorry.

            As for someone to relate to, I find that not everyone can do that. I have a friend who's in a relationship that is great aside from they get depressed and anxious and their partner doesn't know how to respond. It's not that they're a bad person, they've just never been through that and don't know how to listen to someone and give sympathetic advice. Equally, you tend to have to be a good friend to listen like that, unless you're just looking at venting at a bartender or whatever. Equally, it helps to listen to other people too, and develop a rapport with them, sharing problems and sympathy. Again, not saying this is your problem, just that it's rare to find friends that you can talk to about the deep, mushy stuff – I have plenty of great friends who I'd never talk to about emotional stuff because they're bad at it. Doesn't mean they're bad friends, just that we don't relate on that level. I'm actually pretty lucky to have a few friends who I can relate to on that basis, and it's usually because I learned to share their problems as well as mine. It's not something I knew how to do instinctively, but rather part of my personal growth in unpacking whatever I buried in my teenage years. People who haven't been depressed or gone through personal issues tend not to be able to relate – stuff like the talking to friends in this:… doesn't mean they're a bad person, just that they can't relate with what you're saying.

            *Not implying you're depressed specifically, of course.

        • Vancouverois

          No, it's very different. Don't you have friends you like and care about, but would not want to marry? You even come up with excellent examples. If one person wants to have kids and the other absolutely doesn't, that's very obviously an excellent reason not to date them. If your political or religious views are fundamentally incompatible, that's an excellent reason not to date them. And it doesn't mean that either party isn't attractive in the general sense, either. Somebody can be intelligent, fun, good-looking, and generous – that still can't overcome a fundamental incompatibility.

          "I just hate empty words" = brushing off compliments and assurances. Seriously. You seem to assume that ANY compliment or positive remark about you must be insincere. Is it any wonder that people stop offering them? You make it pretty obvious that you are not going to accept them in the spirit in which they're intended – and as others point out below, that can be pretty insulting.

          • "I just hate empty words" = brushing off compliments and assurances. Seriously. You seem to assume that ANY compliment or positive remark about you must be insincere."

            No, I think they are insincere when the situations around them suggest they are insincere. Let's say someone says something like "Oh my gosh, I look so fat in this dress," and their friend says "No way, you look amazing!"

            Most people call that fishing for compliments. Would you say that the friend's compliment is genuine? Maybe, but good money is it's a compliment given out of social nicety or pressure. Now if the friend had *opened* with "That dress looks amazing on you!" before the person even started complaining, I WOULD see that as genuine.

            So when compliments are only happening in the middle of rants/discussions, it's not really that strange or unusual that I take them with a grain of salt.

          • eselle28

            What if your friend's reaction to your dress was that it's not amazing but that it's just fine and you don't look fat in it? That wouldn't necessarily lead to a spontaneous compliment, but it's a difficult situation for the other person to be in. There is the option of them acknowledging that you feel you look fat in the dress and not offering their own opinion, but that's an approach I think works best when used sparingly, for tough conversations. If that's something being requested on a regular basis, I think it's going to eventually wear down the other person, as it ends up being both negative and one-sided.

          • Why do you think acknowledgment of someone's feelings and not voicing your own opinion is wearing? I've always understood that as the cornerstone of communication. I mean, if your friend says "I feel so fat in this dress," what's wrong with saying "Oh I'm sorry you feel that way." Is it really necessary to tell your friend your opinion of them in their dress and how they should feel about it?

          • eselle28

            If it's limited to that particular comment? That's not really a problem. If it's an extended, deep conversation where my friend is detailing multiple flaws about herself, then it becomes very difficult. The first problem is that it's the emotional equivalent of watching someone self-injure. Most people feel it's harmful for people to make statements like those about themselves (I'm not getting into whether it's true, just noting that most people feel that way), their natural response is to want to stop the harmful behavior, and it's kind of wrenching to listen and do nothing. The second problem is on a more superficial level: it ends up making for a very unengaging conversation for the other person. Even if someone doesn't feel emotional pain from listening to the statements, it's still a conversation that from that person's perspective consists of listening to a bunch of untrue statements and making small, neutral responses to them. Imagine listening to a lecture from someone who believed the earth was flat and not being able to argue, maybe?

            I think it's okay that you want, "Oh, I'm sorry you feel that way," as a response. I think you probably need to communicate that really specifically to your friends. I'd say on the other side of things, though, that it would probably help if you recognized that this is a pretty big ask for a lot of people and that while they'll probably be up for it sometimes, there are other times where you might need to refrain from ranting.

          • Vancouverois

            It depends. Such a compliment *may* be insincere. It also may not be.

            I mean, what's going on here? Do you think that anyone who offers you a compliment in such a situation is really just accusing you of being an emotionally needy manipulative weasel who must be fishing for compliments? And they themselves are just manipulative weasels who are being passive-agressive about it?

            I can understand taking it with a grain of salt. But finding it "insulting"?

          • Accusing me of being an emotionally needy manipulative weasel? Possibly. I have been accused, on many occasions, of "fishing" for compliments when I wasn't. And yes, that leaves a mark.

            I think I see it as insulting because, in the situations I outlined, it's a lose-for-me/win-for-you, social manipulation ploy.

            Take this scenario. I'm complaining because I've now been dumped for being ugly by a guy. Instead of listening to my feelings, my friend is trying to "reassure" me with compliments. But I don't want compliments or reassurances that I'm attractive, certainly not from a female friend. I want to complain about getting dumped for being ugly. I want to talk about my feelings. She's not giving me what I want…. but she can then turn around and act insulted/offended, because she's done this "nice" thing (compliment) and I'm still upset/complaining/not paying attention to what she's saying. She can be righteously angry about how "exhausting" I am, because she can't reassure me…. when I wanted to be *listened to*, NOT reassured.

            People seem to see compliments as the ultimate heal-all, that if you compliment the person, they should suddenly feel all better. No more insecurity, no more complaining, and hey, the compliment-giver feels better about themselves in the process ("See me doing this nice thing of complimenting this person!")

            Compliments given without prompting and in every day, low-stakes situations, I see as genuine and great. Give em myself. Compliments given in the middle of emotional discussions, or out of some sort of misread prompting/fishing, I think of as tools. It isn't *always* manipulative in intention, but it sure is manipulative in behavior.

            Because what can the other person do? If I'm sitting here expressing my feelings, and you compliment me, 1) you ignore what I really wanted in the first place 2) I now have to stop my feelings and acknowledge YOUR opinion about MY situation, so I'm having to put your feelings above mine when I'm in an emotionally vulnerable spot already and 3) there's an understanding that I'll stop being as "upset," because I just got complimented! I should feel better, right? So if I don't, oh man, what a draining bitch I am.

            Compliments are a social minefield for people who are already not fully socially calibrated AND in a depressive state. And that's something people seem to refuse or acknowledge, that compliments are *hard* to take even for the most even-keeled. (If I take this compliment, will I look conceited? Do I compliment them back?) So acting insulted IS kind of insulting, because you are now making someone else's discomfort a personal slight against you, without acknowledging that you were doing this thing to them that they might have never wanted in the first place.

          • eselle28

            It doesn't sound like either of you wins in that situation. You didn't get your needs met. She feels exhausted and frustrated. Both of you sound like you're upset. Just out of curiosity, how do you respond when that same friend comes to you upset about a breakup?

            I'm getting the feeling that this is a situation where you're speaking in very different emotional language than your friends – not something that has value judgments attached to it, just very different.

          • reboot

            Maybe in these situations before you get into the emotional weeds it would help to say what you want from the conversation? Perhaps, "I am not looking for you to make me feel better. I just need to get these thoughts and feelings out so can you just listen and not try to fix?"

          • I ask a whole heck of a lot of questions, myself. Mostly as an invitation to talk. I use a lot of "I see" "Mmhmm" "Yeah." If I give any opinion at all, it's always in line with their current emotional state. "Oh that really sucks!" "Yeah that seems really out of line." If I don't agree with a feeling of theirs, I usually button up about it, because why the hell does MY opinion about THEIR break-up matter? It's only if I feel really, really strong disagreement that I try to venture an observation or opinion, and it's couched in a lot of "This is totally just me" statements.

            Essentially, in emotionally charged conversations, I agree with everything the other person says, or I just sit and listen. (Or, I attempt to learn more to see their side.) If a compliment occurs, it's just me agreeing with something they've said themselves. Like if they say "I thought I was an awesome girlfriend!" I'd say "Yeah I absolutely thought you were!"

            And I admit, that's how I would prefer it too. When I'm in an emotional state, I'm not looking for some Objective Judge. I'm looking for someone who is all aboard Team Me, who will hug me and listen and validate my feelings. So you're probably right that I'm running into people with very different emotional contexts…. I seem to have a lot of Logic friends, who are all about being fair and "objective" and being "truth tellers."

          • eselle28

            I don't know to what extent you talk to your friends about how you communicate, but it might be worthwhile to have a conversation about what each of you prefer from someone listening to you venting. You can ask for the kind of response you'd prefer, can see if they'd perhaps like different responses than you usually give, and maybe there will be some opportunity for understanding on both sides?

          • Guest

            Fascinating. So, in this case, it seems, if someone disagrees with the statements you are saying you would nonetheless prefer someone to lie to you by agreeing with you, "Yes I suppose you are ugly", to someone telling you their truth by disagreeing, "You aren't ugly!" It seems to me you are more interested in people humouring you, than actually being honest with you. Or am I reading that incorrectly? (sincere question)

          • No, I don't want them to disagree with me OR humor me. I don't really want them to say anything at all. Their opinion on my attractiveness (in this example) is irrelevant. Not to be too harsh, but how does it matter? Their opinion of my attractiveness isn't the point. Their truth has absolutely no impact on the topic at hand.

            It's kind of like…. if my lady friend dumped her boyfriend, and was crying about all the stuff he didn't do in the relationship, how in the world is it helpful for me to pipe up and say "Oh well I liked this one thing he did!" Sure, that's my truth-but I wasn't the one dating him, my truth could only hurt and undermine my friend (what is she gonna do, go back and grovel to him to have another chance because I liked one thing he did?), and being the Truth Teller is not what I've there for. I am there to be Supportive Friend. I've got ONE job, and that job is not to insert my truth into her truth.

            They don't need to agree with me, they just need to not contradict me, because how in the world would it help?

          • eselle28

            I'm just going to butt in and say that while I think this preference is a minority one and shouldn't be standard operating procedure, there are people who would prefer someone be Truth Teller (assuming they genuinely thought the breakup was a mistake) than Supportive Friend in that kind of a situation.

            This is drifting a bit from preferences into universal statements about how everyone should behave.

          • True. I should reiterate that I just personally don't want to be a Truth Teller, OR have a Truth Teller when I'm feeling emotionally vulnerable.

          • eselle28

            That's fair. If someone else was feeling emotionally vulnerable – if it was her breakup or his self image that was being discussed – would you be willing to fill the role of Truth Teller or of Complimenter for someone who indicated (for the moment, let's say verbally) that they preferred a friend take this role?

          • Complimentary, absolutely! I give compliments very easily. Truth Teller would be…. tougher for me, because I'd be very afraid of going too far and saying something harsh/untrue. I think I'd only want to be Truth Teller if I thought, for some reason, I had a better grasp of a person's situation than they did.

            So, for example, let's say I'm good friends with A and B. They break up, and B tells me in detail why they broke up with A. If A was going on about B breaking up with them for a totally different reason, I *might* be the Truth Teller. But I'd be very hesitant even then, because maybe B was lying.

            I just really, really don't like telling someone else what their perspective should be unless I have way more experience than they do. Heck, it's one reason you don't see me posting very much advice here or in the forums….. because I really don't believe I could contribute, since they probably know their situation far better than I ever could, and I might give the wrong Truth.

            I'm much better at buying someone a beer and wanting to understand how they see the world. 🙂

          • eselle28

            I think that's a really good thing to know about yourself. I suspect most of us have variations on those roles that we're more and less comfortable fulfilling.

            So….yeah…I think you'd be a really bad match with someone who preferred to communicate by giving compliments and who preferred to be communicated with by hearing the cold, hard truth. 😉 I don't know. I would say with other friends, it might be good to talk about this explicitly…both in terms of expressing your own preferences and asking them what their own are. You might get the usual evasions, but you might also end up learning something about them you hadn't realized and vice versa. (And, yeah, it sucks for you to have to initiate the conversation, but someone's got to get the ball rolling if things are unsatisfactory.)

          • Out of curiosity, what style are you… Supportive, Complimenter, or Truth Teller?

          • eselle28

            It actually depends what stage of things I'm at. I have one of those tempers that flares up pretty quickly and also dies down pretty quickly. If I'm a little riled up, I generally like Supportive responses. Afterwards, I tend to appreciate some Truth Telling and getting some feedback about whether there were any actual good points in my ranting. 🙂

            When I'm relating to others, I think I'm probably more likely to use Supportive or Truth Telling strategies (or some mix of the two). I don't mind being a Complimenter, but it's not something that comes as naturally to me.

          • eselle28

            Okay, it's weird this one got a downvote. It's just a question.

          • Everything I say gets down-voted in these kinds of threads.

          • Guest

            So what are you looking for from someone else when you are venting? This is going to sound like a silly question, but I do mean it 🙂 : why do you need a human to vent to, if what you want is someone to sit quietly and just listen and not contribute to the conversation?

            I guess, to try to explain, I totally and completely get people wanting to just be listened to (I am exactly that person, please please do not offer me advice when I'm venting), but that usually requires that the other person is humouring the venter somewhat, basically agreeing with whatever the venter is saying. And maybe in certain situations that is total honesty, that the person listening to you is in 100% agreement. But that is rare. Usually it's more 80% agreement or something. But if you don't want people to ever humour you, you basically just want them to sit there and listen and say nothing. Is it hugs? Is it a literal shoulder? That is perfectly reasonable to want. I'm just not fully understanding what value there is for you to have a person to listen to your venting if they don't say anything back, versus venting to a pet, or writing in a journal.

            Basically, can you explain a bit more what you are looking for from another human, what you get out of the experience, what your perfect venting experience would be like. I ask this not because I want to then change your mind or anything, truly, I really sincerely am just curious.

            Like maybe you could write a dialogue where you are venting to someone who doesn't agree with your venting? So I could understand what kind of response is neither humouring you nor contradicting you?

          • No I want them to contribute when they agree, or if they must disagree, to do so very very carefully (with lots of evidence and couching statements.)

            I don't see neutralness as agreement. If I say "Man I'm ugly," and my friend says "I'm sorry you feel that way" I don't see that as them agreeing with me. I see them as acknowledging my feelings. They aren't agreeing, they aren't disagreeing, they are focusing on the issue at hand-my own feelings.

            I just don't think an emotional discussion is the time for disagreement, especially if the person is just a Friend in the periphery. I mean, if the issue isn't about them… why do they need to insert their opinion? What is wrong with agreeing? When my friend tells me about her LARPing drama, I'm not sitting there going "Hmm well I disagree with this part." Even when I know some of the people involved, I'm going "I am 100% on her side about this" because she knows more about the situation than me. She is closer to the situation, and so her feelings/judgment is always going to carry more weight than mine, and thus I'm going to defer to her 9 times out of 10.

            And in situations where I just have to speak up, I try to make damn sure I know what I'm talking about by gathering as much information as possible. In other words, if I'm going to butt my nose into a situation by disagreeing during an emotional conversation, I better know as much, if not MORE than the friend.

            Essentially, don't disagree with me unless you can prove it. You wanna claim that I'm not ugly, for example? You better have more than just a few FB photos to judge. You better have seen me in real life, seen me in several situations, and seen me interact with at least a few guys before you contradict my experience.

            I guess I disagree with the idea that it's venting. I think it is a dialogue, but it's a dialogue that's about support and understanding, not some ultimate Truth.

            Good Idea:
            Me: "I feel so ugly because a guy I was dating said I was cute, not hot."
            Her: "That sucks! I bet that really hurt. I had <insert situation like that.>"
            Me: "Oh yeah that does sound familiar. How did you handle it?"
            Her: "I did <blank.>"
            Me: "Hm I'm not sure I could do that same thing. It just really hit the ego, ya know?"
            Her: "Oh yeah, that stuff can sting."

            Bad Idea:
            Me: "I feel so ugly because a guy I was dating said I was cute, not hot."
            Her: "Well but did he *really* say that?"
            Me: "Yeah! I hate how guys think I'm ugly."
            Her: "You are exaggerating. Guys don't."
            Me: "Name one guy that doesn't."
            Her: "I don't know but there's gotta be. I think you look fine."

            Notice how in the first scenario, she's not agreeing with my looks…. she's validating my feelings, expressing comfort, and sharing her own experiences. It's about bonding; I feel heard, and when I feel heard, I feel calmer and more able to think less emotionally.

            In the second scenario, by immediately undermining me, I start to go to hyperbole, because I'm trying to get across my feelings that aren't being heard. That then leads down into a road of cross-examination and demands.

          • eselle28

            The Bad Idea conversation is, well, obviously a bad idea.

            I actually also see a problem with the Good Idea one, at least for the other participant in the conversation. You shared an experience with her. She affirmed your feelings, like you prefer, and then shared an experience of her own. You asked for advice, decided it wouldn't be helpful for you…and then moved back to your experience and requested more affirmation from her. You certainly shouldn't take her advice if you don't agree with it, but I think a lot of people would find that section of the conversation more enjoyable if you affirmed your friend's experience and feelings about it before moving back to your own. Otherwise, the conversation ends up seeming one-way at best and rejecting at worst.

          • Very good point, that's worth keeping in mind.

          • Guest

            Okay, cool. This makes a lot of sense to me and I am understanding a bit better. So you aren't against disagreement or humouring, it just has to be done carefully and with consideration about what you are looking for first, which makes sense.

            I have another question, yay! 🙂

            In these two scenarios you have one person who agrees with you that "cute = ugly" and has had a similar experience that upset her, and you have one where the person doesn't believe the person called you cute in the first place. But both these scenarios presuppose that being called cute is a big insult.

            But what would happen if the person didn't think being called cute was a bad thing. What if that person knew your boyfriend and knew that for him "cute" is the highest compliment because "hot" is something superficial and lacks personality (or whatever). So the person doesn't agree with the fundamental premise, but still believes the situation happened. That being said, the friend knows that you don't want disagreement, so won't say that she thinks maybe thinking cute is an insult is an overreaction, but can neither agree and offer her own example of being in a similar situation.

            What would you want that person to say then in response? I guess basically I'm trying to understand how to make the above situation be a dialogue as opposed to a vent. When someone disagrees and can offer no similar personal situations, but still wants to be supportive, what should they say?

            (I really hope you don't mind me asking all this, they are sincere questions, and I really am starting to understand your perspective a lot better)

          • Well I'd say in the scenario where she doesn't agree with the fundamental premise…. is *she* dating the guy? No. So whether the guy means it as a compliment or the friend thinks it's an over-reaction, what's being discussed is *my* feelings. And I feel it's a slight. My friend might not-cool. But HER preferences don't change or alter MY preferences.

            Saying it's an overreaction because SHE wouldn't feel the same way as me undermines how I feel. Because I am not her, and she is not in my situation. She isn't taking the time to understand my perspective, or why it's a big deal to me…. she's judging me by her standards, and since I'm not her, I'm never going to win in that scenario.

            If she disagrees, maybe she should try asking me about it. "How does that make you feel?" "How come you feel that way?" "Is being hot important to you?" Maybe she might never agree, because her preferences are different, but she could see why it bothers me. Now she gets me better, I feel listened to, and maybe she COULD find a scenario where something parallel happened to her.

          • Guest

            Okay, yeah, that makes sense. I actually really like that. And I agree, it is your truth and someone saying "You are overreacting" sucks, I wasn't saying she was right to say that, btw, just that that was maybe what she was thinking. I like the sort of interview technique, and I think that could be not impossible to articulate to others either. I do think you will have to tell people exactly how to treat you in those situations (I do it myself, though I have a different set of standards I'm looking for), because it is more unusual. But it isn't impossible, I don't think. I think once people learn how to respond to you, they will feel like they are still part of your process, and not just a sounding board. So that's good.

            But yeah, maybe if you haven't been super clear in the past, you could try to be now. I think you could get what you want, you just have to ask for it. And with someone who really cares about you, they hopefully will give you what you need.

          • SarahGryph

            This makes a lot of sense to me here; sorry it took so much writing there.

            Can I mention something I see in there that would make a difference to me in responding you? (assuming you hadn't already explicitly stated "no compliments, please, I mean.)

            When you say "I feels so ugly because" it's a lot easier to respond addressing that *feeling.* When you say something like "I am so ugly" it's harder for me to know what to say. Since we're online, and you've told me you don't like compliments, I can choose not to address it if I can't think of a good way. That's harder in real life. :/

            It's also an odd space as a listener because if I say "I don't think you are" I mean it as sharing my personal opinion/thoughts – not trying to deny yours….it's like if someone said "Why are there no good burger places in town?" I'd say "Well, yeah the McDonalds is what it is, but we've got [other place] – I like them if you haven't been there." If they say "Why don't we have [burger place they like] here?" it's much more natural to say "Oh geez, I know right? We don't have KFC either, it bites."

            Again, this is talking without already knowing where you stand. You've been clear so I try not to break that request.

            I'm not trying to tell you how to speak; but it seems like that might be another idea for when you're trying to communicate with folks who don't quite get what you want out of the convo. "I feel like a loser because I called in sick to work" will probably still get me people saying "Oh honey, you aren't a loser" but it would make it easier if I wanted to stay focused on "But this is how I FEEL and it sucks." (I don't really feel like a loser, btw, I'm just frustrated because trying to make a good impression on new job…bad time to be super sick.)

            It's also neat to me that you like the shared experience response. When I'm not troubleshooting 😛 that tends to be what I do, and I always feel bad that people think I'm trying to make it about me when really I'm just trying to show that I empathize. I'm really glad to be reminded that plenty of people do value that as support.

            I also agree that when someone is super emotional it really matters to pay attention to what they want/need from the convo. For me, I usually have to actually *tell* someone "I'm really emotional about this right now" because I often seem a lot more collected than I really am. That goes triple online. I have a bad habit of saying "Yeah, I'm a little down this week" when I really mean "I want to curl up in a corner and cry" which tends to affect how people take what I say and how they respond to it. That's just me though, I've no idea how easy or hard it is with you for people to tell what emotional state you're in during a conversation.

          • (Hey wanted to say I really appreciated both of your comments, just don't have the finger strength to respond right now so will later. But didn't want you to think I hadn't noticed and been thankful for your responses!)

          • SarahGryph

            Thanks, I appreciate that and very glad if they were useful! And no worries, I'd be typed out by now, too.

          • reboot

            The more I read about how you prefer t e communicated with in these moments, the more I think you need to articulate your specific needs. You seem to needs someone who is a combination of truth teller (but not so true) with some comforter (but no compliments). You need someone who will bite their tongue if they disagree with you (-1 on truth telling) but one that will not verbally try to assure you that it is not as bad as you think (-1 on comforter). It is a tricky role for a person to fill and almost impossible, I would guess, without you clearly articulating what you need.

          • OtherRoooToo

            "The more I read about how you prefer t e [sic] communicated with in these moments, the more I think you need to articulate your specific needs."

            Repeated for emphasis. This all day.

            Because this kind of thing

            “complimenting doesn't make me feel better. If they're my friend *at all*, they should know this.”

            is just expecting mindreading from people, where you (generic “you”) don’t Use Your Words with people to ask them for what you need or tell them what you expect. It’s very passive-aggressive.

            Nobody’s perfect, not friends, and not people in intimate relationship. No one is going to remember that if they’re not told, or the request made of them, at least once.

            It’s completely unreasonable to expect people to just guess what you need. I was dating a man who expected me to read his mind and guess what he needed, instead of ask me or tell me. I had to stop seeing him. That kind of thing is exhausting.

          • Max

            This why, while I do like you Marty, we could never ever be friends in real life:

            You: "I feel so ugly because a guy I was dating said I was cute, not hot."

          • Ah, so instead of trying to understand where I'm coming from and why I would feel that way, you just immediately shut me down and make assumptions about my feelings. Yep, you're right-couldn't be friends.

            "Cute" in cultural lexicons is reserved for "non-sexual" girls. Girl-next-door types. The Madonna side of the double standard coin.
            I once had a conversation with guys where I asked what the difference between cute and hot was. The guys answered that hot girls are sexual and provocative, but also 'stuck up' and threatening (more likely to cheat, or to have too high of standards.) 'Cute' girls on the other hand, were 'safe.' Cute girls are nice and sweet.

            In other words, there's a lot of cultural baggage surrounding those two words. I don't like the infanticizing that 'cute' conjures up, and I especially don't like the "I want the hot chick but I'm too insecure so fuck that bitch anyway" connotations of 'hot.'

            I *especially* don't like it, because I have had an ex directly tell me that it was good I was 'just cute,' because he 'preferred cute girls over hot girls anyway.' Oh, except HIS perfect ex has been cute AND hot. So it's a particularly trigger of mine.

            …. But yeah, sure, go nuts with the judging.

          • Max

            Our brains just work differently, Marty. I see that* as a guy trying to say something nice and you taking it to mean just the opposite.

            Though I did date a girl who didn't like being called cute, because she was tiny and got called that a lot. I called her that a lot at first (because she was legitimately cute, in the best sense of the word), but she told me she preferred hot or sexy. I did my best to stop calling her cute, but it was a hard habit to break and I'd still slip up (she did cute things! I'm not made of stone). She never took it too seriously, and always understood my good intentions, so we just made a joke about it.

          • Max

            *that refers to the hypothetical example, not the actual guy, who was a dick

          • FormerlyShyGuy

            "Cute" in cultural lexicons is reserved for "non-sexual" girls.

            I agree with Max that this belief would make my head explode, I use cute as a compliment for girls I see as very sexual indeed. If I used cute as a compliment and it was not communicted to me that she did not like it then I would be confused as to why she was insulted.

            That fact that you don't like cute is your preferance and I would honor that for anybody I interacted with but only if it was made know to me.

          • SarahGryph

            Slightly off topic, I always second guess "cute" for guys. Coming from me, it's a huge compliment and usually means I also find them attractive…same with "adorable." "Adorable" can mean "you just did something that completely melted my heart and also interested other things." But I'm aware that a lot of guys wouldn't take that as the compliment I mean it to be… :/

          • Vancouverois

            1) As reboot says below, it may help to say "thanks, but I don't want compliments – I just want to vent".

            2) Your friend obviously isn't trying to invalidate your feelings, but to defend you and make you feel better. Why is that "insulting"?

            3) You've been dumped for being ugly? This is the construction that you've put on it, isn't it? Or are you saying that a guy who had been dating you actually said "sorry, I want to break up because I find you physically repellent"?

            I do not think it would be reasonable for your friends to expect their compliments to work like magic and suddenly make everything All Better. But is that really what they expect? It sounds to me like that's more what you *think* they expect – like you think they're just trying to get you to shut the hell up. I doubt that's true; and if it is, you need new friends.

          • Because complimenting doesn't make me feel better. If they're my friend *at all*, they should know this. So by complimenting me, they are behaving in a way they know makes me uncomfortable and defensive. Ergo, how could they be trying to make me feel better with a behavior they know doesn't make me feel better?

            And I don't necessarily want to vent…. I do want feedback. But I want supportive feedback. I don't see compliments as supportive, at least not in that scenario.

            And yes, I have been dumped for that reason. The guy didn't say "physically repellent,' but he did say 'not physically attractive.'

            I can only guess why people continue to compliment me, but it certainly does seem as if people expect that a compliment will suddenly wipe out my insecurity or bad feelings. If I'm sitting there talking about how I feel unattractive to guys, saying "oh well your FB pictures are cute!" is NOT helpful. I mean how the heck would that be helpful?? What am I expected to do with that *except* shut up?

          • Vancouverois

            People cannot read minds. If they've complimented you in the past in those circumstances, and you've told them straight out not to do that because it makes you feel worse, then maybe you're right to be offended. But if you haven't – if you've gotten upset without explaining that you feel like they're invalidating your feelings and just trying to get you to shut up – you can't assume that they just 'should know' you'll react the same way again.

            Wow. That guy is an ass. Because whether it's true or not (and I know you don't want to hear that it isn't true), that is a dickish thing to say.

            ("I don't feel we have any chemistry" is, however, completely different. I trust that he actually did say the former, and not the latter?)

            I think you're reading the wrong things into compliments in that situation. Again, I doubt any reasonable person could expect a compliment to wipe out the hurt entirely; but it seems manifestly unreasonable to take it as an attempt to tell you that you're stupid and should shut up.

            The more natural interpretation is that they're trying to make you feel better, and may actually mean that you are cute. Why is a desire to make you feel better – even if you don't believe it – an attack? I imagine that most people would at least be glad that their friend cared.

          • Because listening to me would make me feel better. Why in the world would a compliment make me feel better? Especially if it's a compliment that is in direct opposition to the thing I am feeling in the moment? I am feeling that feeling, a compliment isn't going to suddenly wipe it out…. so what's the point of it? It serves no purpose except to redirect the conversation, cause now I have to acknowledge the compliment.

            As far as people not being mind-readers…. well, this entire track of conversation started because you said I brush off compliments. So people are aware of my dislike of compliments, but continue to do it, and then *judge* me for disliking them. People label me as having "a bad attitude," instead of pausing and going "Hmm maybe I've made her uncomfortable."

            Drill down to the core issue, and that's probably why I consider compliments offensive…. because my own personal discomfort with them somehow becomes an access point for people to judge me, and declare I have a bad attitude. So now I have to deal with not just the discomfort (over something that I didn't want in the first place and doesn't make me feel any better), but the judging as well.

            My stance is if you want to make someone feel better, you should ask them what makes them feel better. A compliment may make others feel good, but it doesn't make me feel good… it makes me feel backed into a corner and judged. But, as you can tell, *explaining* that is quite labor intensive. So I just always hope people will get the message and back off.

            And yes, the guy said it directly. But does that really make him an ass? I don't think so. I'd rather deal with an honest asshole than a dishonest nice person. A harsh truth can sting for a while, but it's the nice lies that get under your skin and fester.

          • Max

            Most people do feel better when they receive compliments. For most people, that's going to be how they try to make you feel better. It's okay for that to not make you feel better. It's not okay to assume the person gave you a compliment out of ill intent or malice, and it's definitely not to respond angrily and aggressively.

            Basically, you need to recognize when people are intending to help you with compliments, and that their intentions are good, and acknowledge that.

          • It's when they *continue* giving me compliments that I start assuming it's out of ill intent or malice.

            If one person gives me a flower to make me feel better, and I sneeze because I'm allergic, why in the world would you also try to give me a flower? Maybe that first person had good intentions, but if you see I'm allergic, it isn't that far of a jump to think you're *trying* to make me sneeze.

          • AstralDazzle

            I think some people simply can't break out of the blueprint they have for what a "nice person" is and what we say doesn't compute. Or they're really not listening because it would take effort to meet your needs. I actually had an ex who kept giving me flowers after I told him I was allergic. I'm pretty sure he wasn't being malicious; I think it was easy to do that and it's stereotypical "good boyfriend" behavior. I don't think he really wanted to spend the time and money on doing something that would actually make me happy, since a lot of times when he did he was super miserable. Which made him stubborn, cranky, and selfish, but not malicious.

          • That is a really good point. Why attribute something to malice when it could just be laziness? 😛

            I also agree about the blueprint of the "nice person," which is what I was kind of trying to get at with the you-win insincerity. So many people seem to compliment because that's what a "nice" person does, not because that's what they *genuinely* feel, and it drives me batty.

          • So, here's a hopefully helpful insight.

            You seem to be familiar with the awful, toxic lady-game of "I put myself down, then you reassure me I'm awesome." I hate this game more than anything else women are socialized to do.

            The problem is that when you wail on yourself, you are offering an invitation to others to play this game. And when I say "invitation" I mean "in most cases when this offer is made, it's socially mandatory to respond." Even if another woman knows that when you put yourself down, you really don't want to play that game, she has been trained HER WHOLE LIFE to play it, with social consequences for not doing so. You are triggering a script that you didn't write, and then complaining when people follow it.

            I can say from personal experience that not following that script is *incredibly hard*. I decided about five years ago that I would simply opt out. I would not offer self put-downs as a way of developing relationships, and I would not reassure people when they were putting themselves down. As a result, I get called arrogant, bitchy, vain, and lots of other things that make it clear that it's not okay for me to opt out of the game. I opt out anyways, but it really sucks.

            I don't think you entirely understand the extent to which you put people into a VERY uncomfortable situation when you start ragging on yourself. Compliments aren't a great way to respond, but there aren't really any great ways to respond that aren't either exhausting, stressful, or risky for the other person.

            That said, if you can see the pattern, THEN you can work around it. So if you know that putting yourself down will trigger the put-down/pick-up interaction, then you can avert it before you open your mouth. For example, I say things like "I'm feeling really down on myself, and I just want to say all the things I'm thinking out loud. Please don't argue with them – that only gives them more reality."

            I suspect you are going to say that people just shouldn't play that game, or that it's somehow dishonest if they do – but the social training we get is not entirely up to us, and the way other people respond to the social patterns that exist outside of us isn't ours to define.

          • I think you're totally right about the script. I HATE it as well. It's probably the biggest lynch pin in my "compliments induce social anxiety" dilemma. I think it's really awesome for you to opt out…. for the record, I've never thought you were bitchy, vain or any of those things, and I really admire that you DON'T adhere to such an awful script.

            I never thought about it before, but I see it now that you point it out. Oddly enough, me ragging myself is *my* way of trying to opt out (not a useful or the best way, but it's the only way I got.) Ugh, what an awful mess!

            I really like that script. I will try to use that in the future, because you're right, I don't want to play into the script, but I also recognize it's social conditioning (which is why I don't want to label people who give compliments as "liars." That's…. kinda but not really true?, because we're socially conditioned to be nice and complimentary, so even if it isn't genuine, it isn't vicious like actual lying? Ugh, I hope you get what I mean.)

          • reboot

            I do not know if kleenester understands what you are saying but I do. Breaking or countering social conditioning is hard and sometimes lonely (because people often do not understand why you are off script). The best you can do is avoid starting the script and learning ways to deflect/redirect if you get inadvertently stuck in one.

          • enail0_o

            I had never thought of this in terms of scripts before. It's a really useful way of thinking about it, it explains so much!

          • Oh, yay, I'm so glad this was helpful!

            The script I use might not be the right one for you. I suggest you test it a few times and see how it works. If it's not working for you, I'm happy to help you brainstorm other ways out of this particular interactional trap.

            I'll add that I think if you are able to find ways out of this scripted interaction, it might make it easier for you to accept compliments in other sorts of interactions without them pinging your social anxiety.

            Please let me know how else I can help you with this.

          • Joy

            "I don't think you entirely understand the extent to which you put people into a VERY uncomfortable situation when you start ragging on yourself. Compliments aren't a great way to respond, but there aren't really any great ways to respond that aren't either exhausting, stressful, or risky for the other person."

            Oh my goodness, yes. I *hate* when friends start in on how unattractive they are. I start to feel a little panicky as I run through my options, none of them good. Do I tell them I think they're pretty (if I do) and get the exasperating dismissive "you're just saying that" wave-off? Do I tell them I think they're pretty (if I don't) and get the above, plus a side dish of "crap, I just lied to my friend in an attempt to get out of this horrible conversation"? Do I say nothing, which makes them think I agree, because otherwise I'd have surely said something? There is absolutely no good response to self-abuse in conversations.

          • Vancouverois

            Wow. Your perspective is very, very different.

            I don't understand why you think that listening to you and offering a compliment are mutually exclusive options. I think most people would agree that they aren't.

            I'm still not clear on what you would do in a similar situation from the other side. If your friend complained that she'd been dumped for being ugly, you'd basically say 'yeah, it sucks that you're ugly'?

            "My stance is if you want to make someone feel better, you should ask them what makes them feel better."

            Now, see, this is something that **I** would consider to be patently insincere – at least the way you've described it. Instead of offering a spontaneous reaction, just ask them what they want to hear, and then tell them what they say they want to hear? How can you possibly get any genuine comfort from that?

            (And yes, the guy is still an ass. "I don't feel physical chemistry with you" may be a harsh truth, but it's an objective and more tactful way of getting the message across. "You are not physically attractive" is an insulting and sweeping subjective judgment that he has no right to make.)

          • No, I'd say "I'm sorry you feel that way." Or "You must be really hurting, huh?" Or "Do you want to talk more about that?"

            I wouldn't agree. But neither would I invalidate what they're feeling in that moment.

            No, you're not asking them what they want to hear. You're asking them what they need. That way you aren't assuming, and everybody wins…. they get what they need, you get to help your friend. Is my hug any less genuine after asking if they wanted one than if I had just hugged them? Nope, and it's probably a heck of a lot safer (maybe they have boundary issues, or just don't want to be touched, or have a cold.)

            Asking is always better than assuming.

          • Vancouverois

            Those are all good responses. However, I don't see a compliment as invalidation or contradiction. It's profoundly different.

            If you say something like "I was so stupid to think he would like me" and your friend denies that you were stupid, I don't see how it's reasonable to take umbrage at that. Frankly, most people would be more depressed if their friend DIDN'T contradict them right away. It's a natural reflex – in that context, saying "gee, that sucks" seems like a very weak and unsupportive response.

          • SarahGryph

            Trying to be there for someone when their communication/support style doesn't match with yours can be really difficult, I definitely agree there. In the above situation I'd generally say something like "Thanks, I really appreciate that but I'm still upset that [person] doesn't seem to think so." BUT I can do that because that's my honest response – the compliment hasn't "made everything better" of course, but I also honestly appreciate the comment.

            I tend to have more trouble talking things out with someone like my mom – she always wants to troubleshoot. (and I've picked up the habit from her even though it's not one that goes well for me, go fig) I sometimes have to make an effort there to say "Thank you so much for your thoughts, but right now I just feel very bad about [thing] and just would like some general support."

            I don't always remember (*meep*) but I also at least try to remember to ask other people if my support is helping. Like "Well, I think what you did makes perfect sense, but I'm not sure if that helps right now?" It's hard to do – and even harder, I think, when it's someone you really want to support. You (this is all general "you") automatically launch into your own personal version of "support mode" (listening or complimenting or troublehooting etc.) sometimes without pausing to see if it's the right flavor of support.

            So TL; DR is that for me I try to at least appreciate what the person is trying to do, in whatever way that makes sense in my head; and then be as honest about what support I cold really use as I can be while making sure they know I appreciate that they're even trying. A lot of people will stop even trying to be supportive if they feel like they got shot down; but I find most are pretty understanding about a "thank you, but I could really use [this] right now."

            And on that note…I've troubleshooted and rambled without knowing if that's what you wanted; and I am sorry about that. Being an open forum thread, I'm also kinda thinking out loud on the topic in general.

            EDIT: Also I am definitely not telling you that you have to respond the way I do. Just describing my own choices as far as "what else am I supposed to do with that?"

          • Nothing wrong with thinking out loud, that's kind of the entire point.

            I agree that asking for a specific kind of support, or emphasizing what style of support doesn't work for you is a good idea. The issue I've run into is people don't seem to *get* my style of support. Like, I don't want to rant…. I want to be listened and supported. And I do want honest opinions, but I don't want honest opinions that undermine my own feelings (at least not at that moment.)

            I mean, take this discussion on compliments. I apparently have a non-normal approach to compliments, and it's taken a LOT of discussion and explanation to get that across, and there still seems to be some crossed wires. When you want to talk about issue A, but spend the entire time just explaining why you don't like Support Style A, it leaves no emotional resources for Issue A.

            Essentially what I'm saying is, I don't know how to function in a world where it seems I'm so goddamn freaking different than everyone else. How can you effectively communicate when you seem to live on entirely different planets?

          • SarahGryph

            I also think I get what you mean about it being hard to take certain compliments. It sounds similar to this last weekend, I was feeling very down and I really wanted people to tell me that I matter – like actually *say* that. I wound up spending a lot of time with a friend of mine who is wonderful and supportive but almost never does that. He shows me just fine that he enjoys my company and if I ask he'll say so…but hearing that *asked for* wasn't so much going to help. For me, even though he's usually the one I lean towards for support, I had to take some time away with people who are more vocal about things like that before I could go back and appreciate his style of support. If that makes sense. There just isn't a good way to say "stop making all this time for me and just tell me you think I'm cool, I need to hear that right now." 😛 That's a conversation I'd have with a dating partner, but not so much this particular friend.

            Anyway, I guess I'm saying I don't really have a good answer because yeah, it does suck when you really want support and you're really not getting the kind that would help you in that moment. 🙁 Short of telling people that are most likely to be supportive what you tend to need, and then reminding them as you need to?

            To use my mom again, I know she loves me but she really has a hard time not troubleshooting. So if I go to her for support I try very hard to remember that and not take it personally when she forgets that's not what I wanted. Is it possible that some of the people giving you compliments are just set up to be complimenty people so it's easy for them to forget – not because they don't care but because it's learning a new skill?

            The way you explained it up there made sense to me as a short form "What I could really use right now is for someone to listen; I could really use your support but compliments are hard for me to take right now." I'd also say it can be awkward when you ask someone for honest opinions and they don't know where the "honest" line is. I think "I'd like your honest opinion, but I'm feeling kind of squishy right now and really need my feelings to not be invalidated," might be a little clunky, but it gets the gist across. It's not a fault in any party, but I'd guess not everyone would be able to walk that line – you seem like you're pretty cool about it as long as people listen and are trying, though; which is very helpful. I'm double glad there – I'm home sick from work atm and not sure I'm at my most coherant myself. 😛

            EDIT: Just read down further – this thread be hopping. If you're burnt on this, I don't blame ya. It's crazy trying to talk to multiple people at once especially when you feel misunderstood. 🙁

          • Guest

            Well, I think it's not to make you shut up, it's to offer the possibility that your self perception is flawed. You've heard of body dysmorphic disorder right? Where a person sincerely cannot objectively understand what they look like? That's a real thing. It is an extreme example, but an example nonetheless of how our own perspective isn't necessarily an objective truth. When you say you feel ugly, I now know you want to hear "I'm sorry you feel like that" and if we were to meet in person, I would know that that's what you wanted and I would do my best to give you what you want. But others who don't know this are going to want to offer you evidence about why your self perception might be wrong, and that maybe it might make you feel better to know that what we see is different from what you see. It isn't to shut you up, it's actually trying to make you feel better using facts to counter your facts. Again, it's people caring about you and trying to help you. Not everyone is trying to manipulate you and one up you.

          • People with the usual levels of empathy find it painful to hear other people, especially people they care about, beating themselves up. If you say shitty things about yourself, people who like you will worry about you and will probably try to change your mind.

            If you don't want that kind of attention, don't say shitty things about yourself. That's it. You can't make people not care about you. (Well, you can, but I don't recommend it.)

            Reply to unwanted compliments briefly or not at all. Who cares if a compliment is objectively, scientifically correct? Only your jerkbrain.

          • But what if the person in the dress in this scenario has low self-esteem that she only expresses sometimes, so her friends don't realize how bad it is? Her friend, genuinely believing that she looks amazing, rushes in to reassure her when she expresses a negative opinion of her appearance that her friend genuinely does not share.
            That's not fishing for a compliment, that's two people being their genuine selves (and one of them being a genuine friend). If the friend doesn't exclaim that the person looks amazing right away, well, there could be several explanations for why, such as not being such a great friend that she thinks to do that, or having had her compliments shut down in the past so that she thinks "no compliments at all, ever" is what her friend wants, or thinking that it's obvious that her friend looks amazing (because she doesn't realize how bad the person's self esteem is).
            But none of those reasons mean that the compliment isn't genuine, or is manipulative, or even that the woman in the dress is fishing for compliments.
            The fact is, you can't /know/ someone's motivation for complimenting you unless they straight up say "I only said that because I had to say something". See the woman in dress might think "oh she's just saying that, because I said x", but she'd be wrong. Her low self-esteem would be screwing with her perception of herself and her friend (ruling out the possibility that her friend is saying it genuinely).

            So, side tangent here: one of the things that happened while I was in therapy was that I had a huge fight with one my friends. Like, huge. And I knew I wasn't going to get an apology from her, or if I did, I would have to push and push and push and it wouldn't be sincere. It had to come before I asked for it, or else it didn't mean anything.
            "I did x, because you hurt my feelings when you did y. Sorry", felt, to me, insincere. Because my friend was putting the blame on me first, before she took responsibility, see?
            And that's something my therapist called me on. How did I know it was less sincere if it comes at the end of the speech than before? Apologizing is hard for some people, and (I've realized) particularly had for my friend. She genuinely needs to work up the courage to apologize because she's afraid I won't accept it (her issues acting up there).
            The fact is, people have many different ways of communicating, and what I've learned is that you can't assume insincerity just because they put a compliment where it /could/ be solely socially motivated. Now, if you hear through the grape vine that that particular person is insulting you behind your back, /that's/ a good reason to suspect insincerity. Or if you read something in their body language, or tone of voice that says they're having you on, that's a different story.

            But this is why people here are saying that you're reading into other people's motivations unfairly, and assuming the worst.

          • I don't think her low self esteem is screwing with her perception. Having low self-esteem does not ALWAYS mean a person is wrong, because there are plenty of situations where compliments aren't genuine or there are other motivations going on.

            I, personally, think your therapist was wrong. I think you have every right to see something as insincere. Words and meanings and actions MEAN things. We have language because we all interpret things in, more or less, the same way. I don't say "green" to make you think "blue." Putting an apology at the end of a "but/because" is nearly always universally acknowledged as NOT a sincere apology. Or, at the very least, not a good apology. I think you had it right the first time round…. your friend was putting the blame on you first.

            Or, at the very least, is a really shitty communicator.

            And her issues with having trouble apologizing are not *your* issues. Forcing you to change how you interpret things because someone ELSE hasn't dealt with their issues is kind of counter-productive to healthy boundaries, in my opinion. Now if you really wanted to keep her as a friend, cool, we all draw our own lines in the sand…. But my opinion is that your therapist was wrong to say that your interpretation was incorrect or invalid.

            Yeah, there are ways to communicate. But if someone is communicating poorly, it is not my job or responsibility to reach into their brains and sush out whether they're insincere or just a poor communicator. I get to feel what I feel, and I get to call that compliment insincere *to me.* If they really want to compliment me, then they better find another way to do it…. Or they could just not compliment me, but either way, their lack of clear communication or their behavior-seems-insincere is not my problem.

          • Vancouverois

            "Forcing you to change how you interpret things because someone ELSE hasn't dealt with their issues is kind of counter-productive to healthy boundaries […]"

            I gotta say, I find this reply pretty revealing (and more than a little ironic).

            You think that Kathleen's friend's issues are that friend's issues, and Kathleen shouldn't make allowances for her issues- and yet you seem frustrated that other people don't seem willing to accommodate your own unusual take on compliments, which clearly is not shared by most people here?

            It is indeed up to you to decide how far you're willing to make allowances for other people. But… if you refuse to do that under any circumstances, not even for friends, aren't you just hurting yourself needlessly?

          • I think Kathleen should make allowance for her issues. But wanting an apology that's phrased as an acceptable apology is not one of her issues. Essentially, if you can take a poll and reasonably say that most people would not consider a "but/because" alongside a "sorry" a genuine apology, then that's on the friend, not Kathleen.

            Now if her friend didn't include the but/because, and Kathleen didn't see the apology as sincere because… the friend wasn't standing on one leg, well, that IS her issue because her expectation is outside the social norm.

            I stated somewhere above in this ridiculous thread that I accept compliments with a smile from strangers/acquaintances because I realize my preferences are outside the social norm. The only time I object is around long-term friends who supposedly know me well, who SHOULD supposedly accept me for who I am (someone who doesn't dig compliments.)

            They don't HAVE to compliment me. Complimenting is something they are *choosing* to do, despite knowing how that makes me feel. In that case, they ARE making their issues mine, because they are not respecting my feelings, but insisting that their voluntary choice override my involuntary desire (they can choose to compliment me, I have to undergo a LOT of work to graciously accept their compliment.)

            As far as most people here… well, we're in that murky gray zone of discussing extremely emotional topics and yet being complete strangers. So I guess ya got me there, I have no idea what to do with you people except be utterly confused about why this particular topic has to be beat into the ground like this. Is it not enough to jsut be like "Oh compliments make her uncomfortable" and move on?

          • Guest

            Absolutely, and maybe we should move on. But you also ask for advice. You ask about what makes it hard for you to make friends (and when you are single, you've asked what makes you stay single). And with that knowledge, we will, when we see behaviour that might contribute to your social problems, want to point it out to you. Because, like usual, we want to help. It's very tricky to just sit back and see something that we see as big factor as to why you might be having problems with people and not say anything, when we know how sad you are, and how much you really want to fix your social issues. It seems unkind to just sit and not say anything.

            But, that being said, I will absolutely take a step back and not offer any insight into other perspectives unless you specifically ask for it if that's what you are looking for. Which is a totally valid thing to want.

          • I did ask for advice. I'm just…. surprised? taken aback?…. that not digging compliments given on a forum would somehow be a big barrier to making friends in real life. I was expecting advice, but not on *that*, if ya get my drift.

          • Guest

            Yeah, I can understand that. And it's frustrating when something side tracks from the conversation you wanted to have. It's a personal pet peeve for me too.

            I will say, I was under the impression you don't like compliments in any situation except for when they are spontaneous and in person. So it's not just the forum that it's an issue right? Like this is something that affects your "real" life too right? I think the point people are trying to make is if you consider people who give you compliments as being liars and manipulative, that can raise barriers getting to know people in real life. People don't like being accused of doing bad things.

            In fact, now that I think more about it, that's probably why you get so much push back about this compliments thing. People do find it strange you don't like compliments, yes, but I think what you get is more of a defensive response to you saying that anyone who compliments you ever in any situation other than that one particular one is lying. Because this implies anyone who has ever given you a compliment here is a liar and is trying to manipulate you. And it's likely most people who do that for you are doing neither. So it's an emotional response to that, less to the fact that you don't like compliments. Is my thinking.

            Anyway . . . that's just my explanation why I think you get such visceral responses about this. Not that it in any way makes the changing topics from what you wanted to talk about less annoying.

          • Liars and manipulative is such a black/white way to put it, though. It's much more…. I just put no weight behind compliments except in certain situations, because of the social niceties. I mean would people find it strange if I don't take the "Have a nice day" at the drive through all that seriously? No. Why? Because it's the grease to ease along social interaction, and I don't judge it for THAT, I just don't use it to mean anything it *isn't.*

            Your explanation makes sense, I just wish people didn't take it so…. personally.

          • Guest

            For the record I wish that too. I wish that when I said things sincerely people didn't think I was playing a game (the fact that if I complemented you you'd think it was just social conditioning and not sincere so angers me, because I never compliment someone where I didn't 100% mean it), or that when I cried that I was weak or just attention seeking. There are a lot of social constructs I loathe. I gotta be honest, most of them actually I loathe.

            But the older the get the more I realise, I'm not alone in this frustration. That just because I wish things weren't so doesn't make things not so. I can look for certain qualities in close relationships, I can make sure my friends don't play games and that they still respect me after I cry. I have some control over that. But with peers, co-workers and strangers? I have to accept I'm different. And I have a choice, to play their game and not be judged, or to play my game and have people think ill of me (and worse, inadvertently hurt them). Every interaction I make that choice. Sometimes it's the former, sometimes it's the latter.

            But that's living. It took me a long time to realise it, but everyone is somewhat living a life that isn't their ideal. One hopes that in our private lives we live as honestly and authentically as we can, but in public we have to make a choice. No one lives how they 100% wish they could.

            And I know that thought will be frustrating to you (well it is at least for me), but maybe it will also make you feel a little better knowing you aren't the only one compromising. EVERYONE compromises, it's just some people aren't as vocal about their displeasure doing so.

            (that being said, there are some who LOVE the game, and I envy them. At the same time I have no game players in my life, I just don't relate to them)

          • The problem isn't compliments. It's a) that you attribute hateful motives to people who are doing perfectly ordinary things and b) your self-loathing sometimes causes you to behave nastily to people who don't agree with you. This doesn't make you a bad person – we all have crappy patterns of behavior – but I think that in your case it is driving away people who a) are not hateful and b) don't see you the way you see yourself. Compliments are just one area where this pervasive problem seems to crop up. That's the only reason I'm talking about compliments – because it's a concrete example where maybe you can see this pattern.

            Let me be clear: I do not think you are a nasty or hateful person. I think that sometimes your suspicion and self-loathing get in the way of your good judgment about how to treat other people. When I think about you, I think about a fundamentally decent and kind person, whose major flaw is that she lets her self-hatred distort her vision of others. If you could see more clearly, I think you would have an easier time being Awesome Marty all the time – not just when other people are the ones hurting.

          • But I don't get why it's hateful or nasty. I'm also not sure I really get the self-loathing in terms of compliments. How exactly do you get self-loathing or nasty from me wanting to be heard, and my feelings not undermined?

          • This was supposed to be matter of fact and might be read as harsh or demanding. If so, I apologize. Tone online… ugh. Try reading in "neutral looking for information inquisitive" tone if possible, please.

          • No, you came across as intended! But I need to warn you: I can write this post, but then I have to take a break from posting for a little while. I'll try to come back to this conversation later after I've done the other writing I need to do.

            Here's the way I see it. Even in the best relationship, people don't always interact with you in exactly the way you prefer. The question is how you react when that happens. In your case, the issue at hand is compliments (though I think you've also got a good example in the validation / listening issue you cover above). In any relationship, someone is eventually going to compliment you in a way that makes you uncomfortable. So what happens then? What I see is that you make assumptions that they are trying to manipulate you or bully you, which is a very hostile read of the person's behavior, and may or may not be accurate. I also see that you get very upset that they would treat you so badly, instead of being resilient to the normal bumps and miscommunications of a relationship. I see both these things happen particularly when your negative self-assessment is in play.

            I think all these things are coming from your history of being treated badly, and I see why they are issues for you. But you're treating everyone as though they are the people who behaved badly to you, which drives away people who would prefer to treat you otherwise. Even if they are trying to behave differently, your attribution of their motives and your selective perception of their behavior means you're very unlikely to see it.

            Again, this is the pattern I see. I'm not saying I'm right – I'm saying this is what I see happening. You're the only one who can decide if it makes sense to you.

            I apologize that I have to go do other things tonight, but I'll try to come back to this as soon as I can.

          • No worries.

            I think how I react depends strongly on my past experiences with that person. It's kind of like every person is a bank, and there are deposits or withdrawals. If someone compliments me, and they have a high deposit rate with few withdrawals, I will probably smile and say thanks, or I'll uncomfortably be like 'Uggghh no compliments please" or I'll quickly deflect.

            If a person is more balanced, I'll probably argue with them, but not in a necessarily hostile way…. more in a whiny way that says "See what happens when you compliment me? This is why you should stop, because this shit happens." and then eventually drop it.

            This board is kinda weird, in that I'm reacting with tons of people all at one time. I'm dealing with high deposit and high withdrawal people all at once, so my reactions become like a Boggart trying to scare an entire 3rd year D.A.D.A class… I don't know who I'm targeting, so my reactions fling back and forth between deflection and hostility.

            Cause I AM hostile against people who might not have bad intentions *in the moment*, but who have in the past demonstrated that they have no desire to understand me or see my perspective.

            I don't think I mind people disagreeing, per say…. what I hate and react with hostility towards are people who don't bother *trying* to see my side. Like you right here are disagreeing with my view of myself, but also seem to be open and questing for more information and understanding. I dig that; that wins high deposit points, so on our next interaction, I'm much less likely to assume ulterior motives or intentions. (Guest is another good example. We don't always have the friendliest of encounters, but I am less and less likely to presume bullying because Guest has attempted to understand me in the past.)

            Essentially, first-second-third impressions are important to me, and seeking to understand and connect is important to me.

            I do get upset when I get treated badly… I think it comes from a sense of confusion, and where a person is, bank account wise. If I'm getting upset at not understanding their motivations, you can bet your bottom dollar there have been some heavy withdrawals in the last while.

          • Okay, so here's the thing: you're not the only one who relies on past experiences with others. Other people are also deciding about your deposits and withdrawals. I think you don't necessarily understand the degree to which your response to compliments is a significant withdrawal from the other person's store of trust and goodwill. If your goal is to stop the behavior, but to do it without depleting the other person, then there are much better ways than what you describe above.

            – "Smile & say thanks." Deposit. Doesn't stop them from complimenting you in the future, but I think that taking this option will actually make the compliment interactions weigh much less heavily on your long-term relationship with the person. Every other response you describe makes the compliments more "weighty," if that makes any sense. But! You have to be willing to tolerate some discomfort in order to follow through with this option.

            – Deflecting. Could be a deposit, neutral, or a withdrawal, depending on how you do it. Basically, if you acknowledge what the other person said and what they feel while deflecting, it's a deposit. Otherwise it's neutral at best.

            – "Uggggh no compliments please." Withdrawal. Among other things, it comes off as yet another invitation to play the put-down-pump-up game.

            – "Argue … in a whiny way." Major withdrawal. I think this is the place where a lot of the really negative impacts are happening for you – you are taking people you have a neutral relationship with and turning them into people who don't have any further interest in building a positive relationship with you. I can try to explain further why I think this is such a major withdrawal – in some ways, even more so than hostility – if this doesn't make sense to you.

            – Hostility. Major withdrawal, but I think you already know that.

          • Truth be told, I'll probably do deflection. Or I'll follow the script you outlined in the comment above. I can do the "smile and say thanks" privately. Like, one or two times people have messaged me on FB itself to say "aw I think you're fine!" and (when I catch it), I try to just say "thanks, <compliment back.>" I think it's the public nature of the forum that really ramps up the discomfort….

            So forum-wise, I'll probably try deflection, and stressing (as you said) that I really just want to talk about this thing in this specific way.

            I admit I don't get why it's a major withdrawal. Annoying, sure. But why a major withdrawal, do ya think?

          • Well, it's right there in the way you talk about it. Your interactional goal is to make it so "expensive" for people to compliment you that they stop. In other words, you've actively chosen a strategy that exhausts people emotionally, and you're following it in order to control the other person's behavior (by getting them to stop complimenting you). Worst of all, you're doing it in a way that draws out the negative part of the interaction over time – and that draws it out more for people who care about you more, since they're the ones most likely to spend time and effort engaging with you. That means the total cost of the interaction is high, and the better your overall relationship with the person, the HIGHER the cost will be for them since the argument goes on longer. Does that make sense?

            I think that deflection and redirection are your best bets for this forum. I think you will need to do some experimenting and practicing in order to figure out how to make them work best for you in light of the new things you've come to understand, but I think you can turn them into a workable strategy!

          • I…. kind of get it. I think I probably make the interaction "expensive" because I've make comments about compliments before and been ignored so, fine, you break it you bought it kind of a deal. I guess I just don't have any other strategies to get people to…. well, just leave me be.

            But yeah I'll try deflection and redirection. Thanks.

          • My pleasure!

          • Vancouverois

            But you're taking your own issue – an atypical reaction to compliments – and turning it around to present it as your friends' issue.

            If you believe that Kathleen shouldn't accept a qualified apology because that's the social norm, then surely your friends should be able to expect you to accept compliments gracefully – because that too is a social norm.

            Or if your friends should realize that you hate compliments and not offer them even under circumstances where it's normal to do so, then it should be okay for Kathleen to decide to accept a qualified apology from her friend.

            Saying that Kathleen shouldn't accept atypical behavior from her friend, but that your own friends should accept it from you is a contradiction.

          • But my friends don't HAVE to compliment me. I am not forcing them to compliment me, a compliment is something they are doing of their own free will without any input from me. So I'm NOT making it their issue, because if they never complimented me, we'd literally *never* have a problem. So they are creating the problem, and then insisting I fix it.

            Kathleen's situation isn't a perfect fit to this scenario, because she's discussing a friendship in which two people are negotiating and drawing boundaries. And I did say it's cool for Kathleen to accept a qualified apology…. I just said I thought her therapist was wrong to "call her out" on it. I think there's nothing wrong with going "I am willing to accept this flaw of my friend despite my own feelings about it." What WAS wrong was for her therapist to somehow claim her feelings or desire (for an unqualified apology) were wrong in the first place. She can accept atypical behavior, but she should do it without having her own desires undermined. ("I'd prefer it this way, but I can live with it this other way.")

            There is no boundary to be drawn with *giving* compliments. You don't HAVE to give compliments. So if you don't HAVE to give compliments, why exactly is a huge inconvenience to just not with a particular friend, to the point where you are demanding they deal with something they feel uncomfortable with?

          • Vancouverois

            "I just said I thought her therapist was wrong to 'call her out' on it."

            Fair enough. I suppose I was interpreting the expression differently in that context – not that the therapist was saying Kathleen was wrong, but perhaps offering a different perspective on it that she should consider in case it would be useful. But if the therapist was indeed being critical, then I agree that isn't appropriate.

            As for not giving compliments – well, again, I think it's natural for your friends to want to defend you. If a stranger were saying critical things about you, they'd probably defend you. So if you're the one saying self-critical things (or merely *seeming* to be saying self-critical things, or taking the criticisms of others to heart), I can see how friends would have a strong impulse to defend you under those circumstances too.

            I think that characterizing it as 'laziness', as you did in response to AstralDazzle above (tongue-in-cheek, but still) is a little unfair. Defending a friend is a pretty deeply ingrained response for most people, I think.

          • Max

            One thing to note: Had Kathleen been pedantic, and assumed that her friend meant literally what she said (and ignored the subtext), she would be down a friend. Because she was able to accept the apology that was given to her, she got a friend back.

          • And good for her if she can manage that friend. But if the friend's inability to apologize without also casting blame on Kathleen becomes a heavy burden, then she probably shouldn't *want* that friend back.

          • Max

            "Yeah, there are ways to communicate. But if someone is communicating poorly, it is not my job or responsibility to reach into their brains and sush out whether they're insincere or just a poor communicator. I get to feel what I feel, and I get to call that compliment insincere *to me.* If they really want to compliment me, then they better find another way to do it…. Or they could just not compliment me, but either way, their lack of clear communication or their behavior-seems-insincere is not my problem. "

            You are only making it harder for people to interact with you. You don't have to make it easier, and other people can decide that they don't want to expend the effort and stop interacting with you. That's just how it is. If you act this way, you will push people away. That's a fact.

          • But who am I pushing away? People who don't get me, people who can't give me the things I want in a friendship, and people who I just frustrate and annoy. Is it-a bad thing that I push those people away??

            Now if that's ALL people…. if being myself means I will never have friends… well doesn't that just fucking suck, and I return again to the dilemma of liking myself but being hated by others. Do I give up who I am and have friends but be unable to live with or recognize myself? Or do I become a hermit cut off from the world?

            I have yet to find an answer, and I guess I can hoping I can find people who actually get me and AREN'T frustrated by me or pushed away by who I am.

          • Vancouverois

            If this is something that is forcing you into that kind of dilemma, then maybe you should work on changing it.

            Unless you see it as a central and crucial part of who you are, of course. But is it?

          • The compliments thing I'd say is a fundamental part of me, because it strikes right to the heart of my social ineptitude. And social ineptitude is something you can… kinda, sorta, work on, except I haven't found out HOW. I can strive to improve it, but have found absolutely zero useful resources for doing so, because a lot of social reading comes from understanding subtle things like body language, tone, and social conventions.

            I can get better at it, with time and resources, but I'm probably ALWAYS going to have some level of awkwardness and abrasiveness. And receiving compliments is one of those social things that flares up my social inability like *crazy.* So someone who is friends with me is probably going to need to be understanding of that, and realize that their giving compliments needs to be done very carefully.

            So pretending that I'm a-okay with compliments would create a false mask about who I am that would put greater pressure on me to bottle up my feelings until I finally explode out of frustration and pent-up social anxiety.

            Would I rather be myself with few friends, or an under-pressure facade with a few more friends?

          • Vancouverois

            But is it fundamental to you because it's a matter of principle, or because you have a hard time seeing how you could change?

            If being The Person Who Takes Compliments Badly is something that's a point of pride for you, or if you feel very strongly that it's dishonest to accept compliments gracefully unless they're offered in a particular time and way, then I guess that is a dealbreaker in your relationships (romantic or otherwise).

            But it seems to be an emotional reaction rather than a moral conviction. Given that you describe it as 'social ineptitude', it sounds like you recognize that objectively it's an undesirable way of interacting. I don't see how being The Person Who Takes Compliments Badly is or could be a valued an important part of your self-identity.

            Yet it also sounds like you're invested in the idea that other people should change to suit you, rather than you trying to change your attitude. You do pay lip service to the idea that it's something you can work on, but you're less committed to that than to the idea that your friends should just learn to deal with it, and if they aren't able to accept it completely, then they aren't true friends. Which means that you're discounting the friendship of people who may not deserve to be discounted.

            I don't think you should pretend that compliments are perfectly okay with you when they aren't; but I do think you can work on reacting less strongly to them, and accepting that this is unusual, and about you rather than them.

            I mean, it's up to you. I get it: change is hard, especially when it involves dealing with experiences that have profoundly shaped you. But it sounds to me like this is something that affects your life pretty negatively.

          • It isn't being the Person That Takes Compliments Badly. That's putting an incorrect label on it. It's the Person That Thinks Compliments Are A Social Nicety and Is Uncomfortable with the Social Script About How "Nice" People Behave.

            So it's kind of principle, but also kind of who I am. It's social ineptitude, but part of social ineptitude is knowing you are wrong, but also NOT knowing why you're wrong. I get that people want me to act in another way, but I don't understand *why* people do…. or, if I think I know the reason, I disagree with it.

            I don't think people should "change" to suit me. I think *close friends* should be aware of what makes me uncomfortable. Stop exaggerating, please. My discomfort for compliments comes out in exactly two places: this forum/online, and my close friendships. And I am NOT asking them to change… I am asking them to respect the fact that some behavior makes me uncomfortable, and to not engage in it around me.

            If you found something your friends did uncomfortable, are you asking them to change if you ask them to stop the behavior around you? No! So please stop putting words in my mouth.

          • nonA

            Compliments and other social niceties have a very important subtextual meaning. They affirm that the other person is worth the time and effort it takes for social grooming, even if the explicit message is banal or pointless. You're not just asking people to get into a Marty-specific habit, you're asking them to break deeply ingrained habits they've had to learn to apply to everyone.

            I understand that deciphering subtext can be difficult. I understand that it can seem pointless and contradictory and wasteful to someone who doesn't already have a firm grasp of it. But it's still there for a reason, and it's still a deeply habitual thing for people instead of being an arbitrary thing that can be turned on or off.

          • Vancouverois

            It depends on the context, and what the thing is.

            Would you expect close friends never to smile in your presence, simply because you told them it makes you uncomfortable to see someone smile?

          • Taking a compliment is actually something you can practice VERY effectively that will have a HUGE impact on how you are perceived socially. You will have to tolerate a certain amount of discomfort, but it will pass in time. I think that trying to get your friends to stop giving compliments is actually the opposite of helpful, because it's not giving you an opportunity to practice reacting to them in a different way. You are letting your social anxiety run the show.

          • I dunno. I've done the "smile and say thanks" thing for years now, and the discomfort has actually gotten worse. One of the things my ex really took me to task for was not taking compliments so I've made a huge effort to smile and say thanks lately. It's been… 3 months, since, and even now, my visceral reaction is half pleasure, half deep discomfort and dislike.

            If it was going to go away, wouldn't it by now? It seems to be just getting worse…

          • The problem is that you have to be consistent in order to retrain your brain. If you are doing it for in-person compliments, but you're resisting it online, then you're massively slowing down the pace of learning.

            For me it took about a year to go from "Oh, man, I have to defuse this compliment somehow" to "Wow, I didn't even notice how gracefully I handled that," with pretty strict adherence to a smile-say-thanks-move-on, zero-argument, zero-putting-myself-down policy.

          • Max

            I don't really have any advice there. I do think the first step is acknowledging that some things you do are going to push people away.

            Also, I think a little less hostility, in general, would be helpful.

          • So would a little more understanding.

          • Remember that deposit-withdrawal metaphor? I think you often overdraw your account because you don't know that you've made a whole bunch of withdrawals so you think you've got more of an understanding-and-affection deposit than you do. Then you feel sad that you aren't getting more understanding, when in fact the amount you're getting is in line with your current trust-and-goodwill balance.

            I'm not saying change … I'm saying that if you understand what's happening better, you can reason more accurately about your withdrawals, deposits, and balances.

          • See, oddly enough, I DO get when I've withdrawn. I totally get that I annoy the fuck out of several people, and I am deep in the red with them.

            But that's why I try to avoid them. I don't necessarily want understanding from them, because I think we're probably too far down the debt hole to ever crawl out. (You are right that I might be withdrawn on folks I am not aware of, but considering I think there are only like…. 2 people here who like me, I'd be surprised.)

            What I don't get is when I'm in the red with these folks, and they're in the red with me, and they're coming to me saying "You need to change so you're back in the black with me!" But… why do you *care* about me being in the black with you? Why are you here? Why are you placing all of the responsibility on me, when you're in the red with me as well?

            Essentially…. I don't quite understand why I should put so much work and energy towards being in the black with people who seem to have no interest in being in the black with me. Like, I'm changing myself to appeal to people who I feel distrust/dislike towards.

            I had a group of friends once who really, really hated me. I was deep in the red, because… ya know, I'm me. Well, for 6 months, I made a really concentrated effort to get back in the black. I never talked about myself, never expressed any opinion that wasn't thoroughly vetted by the group, made conversations entirely about the other person, never called on them for any favors, did them several favors… etc.

            By the end of it, they did like me better, I was back in the black. But I realized that a single withdrawal would sink me right back into the red. 6 months of hard work and turning myself into a unthinking, unfeeling robot, and a single mistake would wipe all of that out.

            In the end, I decided it really wasn't worth it. I was never going to be able to make a mistake with those folks that didn't deeply cost me.

            I wonder if this forum is the same way. You've suggested I could thank people, take compliments. I could not talk about my issues, I could only post on threads where I have the majority opinion, I could spend hours crafting posts so I make sure I never *sound* hostile (after I figure out how you even DO that)… but for what? Just to get people to vaguely like me-when my next mistake is just going to obliterate all that anyway?

            Should I work so hard at something that has such little pay out…. trying to get people who don't care about me to like a facade? I just don't know.

          • Forgot to add this part…. I guess I'd rather concentrate my efforts on people who I already like and who already seem to like me, or at least are willing to give me a chance. I'd rather have a thread of 3 people who like me than 15 people who don't. I'd be less popular, but I'd be with people who I really want to put effort towards, because they're in the black with me (understanding.)

            Let's say, for example, I'm withdrawn with you, Enail or Eselle. I'd want to work very, very hard to get out of the red with the three of you, because you've shown understanding and because I respect the three of you a lot. Or I'd want to work hard at building something with Guest or SarahGlyph because while I'm withdrawn with them sometimes, they are posters who I have a lot of good will towards.*

            Is my time maybe better spend focusing on the relationships I can improve, because I already have a small deposit, even if I'm mostly in the red?

            *This is not everyone on the board I respect, I'm just picking some notable names from this particular thread.

          • enail0_o

            This makes sense, but – and I'm speaking more generally, not to your specific situation and relationships here, so please don't read too much into this, it's just something I've seen come up here with various people – there's one bit I think people tend to forget: your relationship with one person can be impacted by how you interact with other people

            For a really un-reality example, if you were always nice to me and totally gay-positive, but when you got mad at other people you used homophobic slurs at them, that would affect our relationship even if I knew you would never say those things to me.

          • Makes sense, but I admit, then that makes me feel like I can't win. Other people might not have any idea what's going on behind the scenes on a particular interaction…. maybe, for example, a person is using a homophobic slur as an ironic callback/echo to something the other person said in the past… but are using it to measure being friends with someone, then you literally do have to please *everyone.*

            And pleasing everyone might mean becoming an unfeeling, unthinking robot who only agrees with the majority opinion, and who lays down and lets someone bully them bloody.

            So what then?

          • enail0_o

            It's true it's not always straightforward. I think people are often more aware than one would think that there are other sides to the story they're seeing, so there is some breathing room there. But ultimately I guess it's one of those fine line things where you can only navigate it as best you can?

          • SarahGryph

            I really like this deposit/withdrawal way of seeing things; that adds a lot of perspective. I hadn't realized it, but I use that a lot myself…less because people *bother* me and more because I skew towards introverted and tend to only have so much energy to give. Like these last few weeks; I haven't been on here or the forums much because work is taking all my withdrawals – just learning new things, dealing with new people. The forums don't usually *upset* me, but because of the topics discussed (I mean forums in general, not any one person) they do make withdrawals from my emotional/mental energy.

            I'm also not sure if you meant me making withdrawals of you or you making withdrawals from me…still tired and kinda sickish here…but if it's withdrawals "from" me I did want to mention that my withdrawals are less positive/negative and more "social/emotional energy." And for me it tends to be the group as a whole more than any one individual.

            There's been a lot of very great thoughts and ideas from a lot of people here; I wish I had the brains to comment on more of them!

          • Actually, I've been very conscious of what I suggest for you. I think you should thank people in public, and I think you should learn to deal with compliments more gracefully. I think those two things would be much more significant for your "balance" than you realize. I have never suggested you stop talking about your issues, or that you only post where you have the majority opinion, and there are only a few bad habits in your posting that I think you would benefit from correcting. So I think it would be helpful for you to be more accurate about what I'm suggesting you do. In going from "You've made a couple of concrete suggestions" to "OMG I HAVE TO CHANGE EVERYTHING AND BE A ROBOT," I hear your ghosts talking.

            Yes, people have to go out of their way to create positive relationships with others, whether they're looking to develop an intimate circle or a broad group of friends. The question is what has the biggest payoff for the smallest effort.

            Given the kinds of relationships you want to have, I think it's perfectly reasonable for you to concentrate on deepening your relationships with a few people you particularly like. But speaking personally, I agree with enail – I don't develop intimate relationships with people who treat others badly. It's the "watch how your date treats the waiter" thing. I don't want to be the One Special Person You Treat Well. I want to be the person who gets the deepest, most intimate, most special version of the wonderful self you share with the rest of the world. If some people don't like that self, fuck 'em. But if the behavior is unkind or hurtful, then I have a problem with that that's going to limit the total amount of goodwill you can ever have on deposit with me.

          • I'm not saying you suggested those things. I'm saying the board in general has suggested those things. You suggested some things, other people suggested other things. If I want to please everyone, then everyone's advice is what I should follow. I should have specified because when I said "you," I meant general "you," not specific "you" because you only suggested the first two.

            And I dunno, if someone judges me based on an interaction without getting my side… I've run into quite a few of those situations lately, and I really can't see a way around that. They probably didn't have a very high opinion of me in the first place, and people believe what they want to. That's their prerogative. But I can't always change it, and I can't always influence them, and I get really, really, really tired of having to defend myself.

          • Okay, so that's helpful clarification. I think you should not be trying to please everyone. Doubly so because I think people make a lot of different suggestions to you, not because THEY think you should do them all but because they are looking for the ONE right suggestion that you can take, test, and apply to your life.

            I'm in a similar situation right now at work; I've started a new and very tricky job, and everyone has an opinion about what I should be doing. I've sought out lots of advice, but then it's my job to make sense of it. My jerkbrain says, "JUST DO IT ALL OMG OMG OMG THEY ARE SMARTER THAN YOU." But I know that trying to do it all is a recipe for disaster, so I'm using my best judgment to decide who to listen to. The rule of thumb I use is that I take advice most seriously when it comes from people whose lives look most like the life I want to have, and from people who have faced similar challenges to the ones I'm facing even if their lives look different. But even for them, I don't just take or ignore the advice – I apply it, test it, figure out if it makes sense, and then make a decision about whether to keep it or toss it.

            Is that helpful?

          • Yes, thank you.

          • You just made me break into a huge smile right here at my desk. You're extremely welcome. I hope I can continue to be helpful to you in the future!

          • celette482

            This is an amazing point! People tell you to do what they would do. if they seem like the kind of people who make poor choices, you probably don't want to be following their advice. 😉

          • SarahGryph

            I had to reply here, because of the work comparison kleenestar used…and in an odd way I can add on something to it that might be appreciated. My new job, short story is I'm sewing leather. Part of the process is called "vamping" – it's a part of shoe making that requires a lot of steps and precision. (I know you sew Marty…but I really haven't other than hand-sewing since high school so forgive me if I overexplain, it's because *I* am new to it! ^^) So of course, everyone who is training me has THE BEST WAY TO VAMP, especially in terms of my hand position while sewing. We even have a training video where you can see that the trainer in the video is using different hand positions than the ones in the previous pic. 😛 Oh – AND my main trainer is left handed and has much larger hands than I do.

            Yeah…kleenestar's comment just reminded me of the perspective I've had to keep at work. No one is actually trying to tell me to hold the pieces THEIR way (well…one is, but that's her deal). What they're doing is to each show me *their* best hand positions so I can try them out and then see which worked for me. Some of the ones that made no sense to me at ALL wound up helping after I tried for a while, and some of the others…still don't work for me.

            I think you already got the point…I just couldn't resist adding to it since you do sew. ^^

          • enail0_o

            OMG you make shoes that is the coolest thing ever! Somehow it seems so much more solid and 'real' than other sewing to me! Please tell me about it so that I can live vicariously through you!! 😀

          • FormerlyShyGuy

            "but considering I think there are only like…. 2 people here who like me, I'd be surprised.) "

            There may be more people here that like you than you think, I for example may exspress it in a way that frustrates you but when i do engage in conversations with you its because I care about you, and I relate to the way you think to the way I used to think, and have worked to move my thinking away from.

          • reboot

            Marty, completely not related to your specific circumstances but I am trying to figure out how I would respond to a friend with a variation of your communication style. Would general (I hate to use this word) platitudes be a positive, a negative or a neutral? Here is an example:

            Friend: How could I have been so stupid and not seen he/she was X?
            Reboot: Eh, the heart is blind, do not blame yourself
            Friend: But my heart always seems blind
            Reboot: Well, people are also good at hiding their flaws, so it was not just you missing the obvious

          • The first platitude is fine, though I don't dig the "eh", but I see no problems with the second one. Second one seems fine to me.

            I think you could respond just by participating in active listening. Active listening isn't just listening. A big part of it is re-phrasing the person's emotions or words, to communicate that you hear them and understand them. So it could go something like:

            Friend: How could I have been so stupid and not seen he/she was X?
            You: It seems like you're really upset that you couldn't see their flaws.

            I think a lot of people identify this as "therapist speak," but there's a reason it's effective in therapy. And it's freaking HARD; even I, who prefer this style, fail miserably at it a lot. One of my goals this year is to be a better active listener.

          • reboot

            Thanks for the reply and "Eh" is one of my annoying ancestral verbal tics that I constantly battle.

            I was asking because I use platitudes to give myself mental space to process a good active listening response. Because of my job I go into either solution or fact checker mode too easily and therapist mode is one I do not do well and seek to actively avoid at work (because I am not a therapist). Reading your comments made me reflect a bit.

            Are there any good "pause and think" mechanisms you can think of that would fit with a good active listener?

          • Vancouverois

            "Eh" is one of my annoying ancestral verbal tics that I constantly battle.

            Ah – a fellow Canadian! 😉

          • reboot

            Polish on both sidessides and US by birth but thanks for the compliment (I rather like most Canadians I meet). Kid you not, I think "Eh" was the reaction when the country was partitioned…..followed by each person holding at least 3 contradictory opinions about whose fault it was and what to do about it 🙂

          • lol we're not the only ones who use 'eh' :p for me, there's two kinds. There's 'eh' (pronounced "ay"), and then there's "eh" (pronounced, well, "eh") that's kind of just a verbal shrug :p

          • Gentleman Horndog

            "Ah – a fellow Canadian!"

            So that's why her name is "reboot" and not "rebout"…?

          • Given that we live in a culture that informs every woman – multiple times a day – that there is something wrong with her appearance (not every woman's appearance, though) – I find it highly doubtful than any woman has a self-perception that isn't skewed to the critical. It's much easier to see other women as being beautiful, though, because that's part of the message: other women are more beautiful.

            That said, and returning to the story of my therapist, respectfully, I disagree. My friend /is/ a poor communicator, and my therapist wasn't intending to put any blame on me, or expect me to cater to my friend's issues at the cost of poking at my own, but – as Vancouverois (maybe? I can't find the comment now) suggested below – to point out that there were other options than "she doesn't mean it".
            And having talked it out with her (which is how I know her perspective), and having explained to her that putting the apology at the end felt like she wasn't being sincere, she's put the effort in to change that. She puts the apology up front, (almost) every time now.
            My point was (and having read through your comments more, I think I was fairly off base with what I thought you were saying), is that even though I was sure – and you're right, it was reasonable to assume – that my friend was being insincere, she wasn't, and there was a miscommunication going on.

            That said, having read through some more of your comments, it seems like you feel that compliments given because they're socially expected are… hmm, I'm not sure of the word I'm looking for… they count for less, maybe. I'm not sure if I've got this right, but to put it in gaming terms… it's like, if compliments counted for points, a spontaneous compliment from someone counts for 5 points, and socially expected one counts for 0/1/2(or however much?), where insults count for -5.
            Is it something like that?

            Either way, both you and I mention upthread (in different places) the idea of changing how uncomfortable you are with compliments. (Unsolicited advice follows, feel free to ignore it) 3 or 4 years ago, I was really uncomfortable with compliments, too. I hated to hear them (mostly because they always came accompanied by a criticism when I was growing up).

            Maybe this isn't useful advice for you, but when I actively began trying to get more comfortable with compliments, trying to raise my low self-esteem (which I blamed for getting into a spectacularly crappy relationship) I started by consciously choosing to accept compliments, however they were given. Not just smiling and nodding, but internally choosing to think of them as sincere and accurate. It felt wrong, like I was lying to myself, but it did help me begin to change my self-perception. Therapy did the bulk of that, so I can't claim this is a one-step solution, but it did get me started, and got me to a place where I was challenging my poor self-perception actively on a regular basis.

            I do know that horrible feeling of being ugly, and being unable to change that, and feeling like you're going to feel horrible about yourself all the time, no matter what you do, so you certainly have my sympathies.

      • or it could be that your friends and family just don't know how to continue the conversation from "are you single?" "No". I mean, if you'd said "yes", they could ask how you'd met, how long you'd been dating, what he's like, etc. But "no" means basically the only conversational directions they can go are: "Oh, that sucks", "Well, have you looked for a boyfriend /everywhere/?", or "well, good luck with that". All of these suck as options, and I personally wouldn't take any of them.
        But not wanting to engage in that kind of a conversation – where I try to give you advice that you no-doubt already know; or force you to "defend" yourself from anything you read into my questions about it, – doesn't mean that I agree that there's something wrong with you. It just means I don't have any interest in continuing that line of conversation.

    • Joy

      "If you were attractive and romantically worthwhile, wouldn't people want to get with that??"

      Not necessarily. There are all sorts of good reasons why people could be having romantic trouble yet still be an amazing person. For example, being outside the political, financial, cultural, or religious norms for an area. Awesome people can be found on all points of that spectrum, but if you're widely divergent from your surrounding culture, it's probably going to be tough for you to find a good match.

      • Dr_NerdLove

        And sometimes the demographics work against you. One of my friends is gay. He's an awesome dude, but dating for him is an exercise in frustration because he's in the South. He's already in a restricted dating pool (somewhere between 5 – 10% of the population, depending on how you measure things) and living in an area where the gay population is significantly reduced on top of that.

        That's going to make it much harder to date regardless of how cool he is.

        • OtherRoooToo

          "And sometimes the demographics work against you."

          Doc, with your permission, I'm going to borrow this. I'm mixed-race (which I've mentioned before peripherally), and I wouldn't be anyone else but me, but such a heritage comes with all kinds of relationship shenanigans, as you can imagine. Add being a geek girl, and it can get really ridiculous.

          So I'm going to use it the next time some well-meaning but tactless dude rolls out some variant of "You're so great; why are you single?" which … usually gets tossed at me when the guy and I are, in fact, out on an actual date.



      • reboot

        I am a pro-gun control, pro-immigration, athesist liberal in Arizona in an age group (40) that is more likely to be marriedmarried. If and when I ever date again I will match with a tiny fraction of men here and I am an awesome person (not to be conceited)

      • True, but if you by and large DO fit those norms and yet still don't have success, then it does say something, does it not?

      • LeeEsq

        Yeah, pretty much this. There really isn't a lot of logic in life no matter how much we want there to be. There are a lot of toxic relationships. Many toxic relationships take the form of domestic abuse and violence. That is the relationship is toxic because at least one of the people in it is a wreck of human who in a rational world wouldn't be in a romantic relationship.Yet, there in a relationship.

    • LeeEsq

      Yes, its a sort of like if a tree falls in a forest and nobody is around does it make a sound type situation? I see myself as a romantic and sexual being, I want to be in romantic relationship and have sex but if I can't find anybody whose willing to date me or be in relationship with me or have sex with me, am I really a romantic and sexual being. Some activities take two or more people.

    • enail0_o

      Going way back to the original question, I think it's a mistake to try and make too much of what no one wanting to date you says about you romantically, because there are just so many things it could be saying (or more than one thing), that you'll probably just land up assuming it says whatever about you you're already inclined to believe.

      People don't just get relationships for nice reasons like because they've got a lot of great traits and people find them attractive sometimes they get relationships because a terrible person thought they'd be an easy target, or because they really really want to be in a relationship and are good at finding people who are so passive that they'll just agree to it even if they don't want to, or because they're kind and helpful and people who feel broken are drawn to the idea that they might fix them, or because they feel broken and invoke a desire in other people to fix them, or just because their particular issues mesh well with someone else's particular issues. I had a friend once who guys always got crushes on because she gave the impression of being a really sweet girl-next-door type – but she was actually more of an acerbic person who wasn't at all what they were looking for once they got to know her more. It was easy for her to get into relationships, but it was for reasons that were in direct opposition to who she really was.

      So I think reasons for being/not being sought out romantically are really too mixed-up and messy to draw useful conclusions from overall like that.

      • Makes total sense- but then that calls into question the whole idea of Self Improvement. If relationships aren't handed out equally, if it's much less about actual value and much more about luck or other forces at work, then is dating advice ever really useful? It means you could be the most confident, attractive, interesting person and still be alone…. and you could be a manipulative, awful partner and still end up in a relationship with someone who adores you.

        So if it's all a crap shoot, isn't the proper response to throw our hands to the sky and give up?

        (Not saying this is the correct course of action, I am just flummoxed how to fit all of the pieces together.)

        • eselle28

          I think it's like most other things in life – some of it depends on you, some of it depends on predictable factors other than you, and some of it's luck.

        • enail0_o

          What Eselle said. But also, I think there are some specific qualities that have more of an impact on likelihood of getting in a relationship than other qualities that are equally important for being awesome in general or even for being good at being in an existing relationship, that often get brought up in dating advice. Stuff like confidence, socialness, ability to seem approachable, not giving off scary desperation vibes. For a lot of those things, not having them wouldn't necessarily make you any less desirable as a romantic partner, but they would make it less likely that anyone would realizethat you would be a desirable partner, if that makes any sense.

        • reboot

          I think if you have specific issues that might make you someone that could be in a relationship with someone that will exploit them a bit of self improvement is in order. If I had been a little less intellectually insecure and needing validation and better at enforcing boundaries I could have avoided a lot of pain when I met someone whose issues meshed all too well with mine.

          • OtherRoooToo

            I'm impressed that you seem self-aware enough to know that those *are* your issues. I think that kind of self-awareness is key to
            a) knowing what kind of partner is good for you, as well as
            b) knowing what you (generic "you") need to work on in order to be the best partner for someone else.


        • trixnix

          "So if it's all a crap shoot, isn't the proper response to throw our hands to the sky and give up? "

          I've been single a fair bit in my life. The only member of my immediate family not to be part of a couple this past Valentine's Day. I often wondered and I still wonder whether I'm attractive to women. Getting validation from whether women like you or not is a kiss of darkness to the self esteem and a kind of outsourcing validation. But I have wondered whether women did or could like me. The only reason I put myself out there this year is because of last year's load of hell where I almost died. I felt if I didn't grab my life then the forces of what's out there might try and take it away from me again.

          I've worried I'm not good looking enough, too balding, too fat, not good enough face etc. And the insecurities still have their power. But forget this crap. I'm sick of lacking confidence and questioning myself. I don't think there's a certainty to anything in this. Bad people get lucky breaks sometimes. Good people have crap poured on them sometimes. Lack of partners over the years doesn't really say anything about a person. It's 13 years since I had a proper relationship. One that didn't blow up into messy, emotional nonsense. But I'm not the same guy I was 13 years ago. And I'm not going to base my self worth on whether women like me or not. Last year I was in hospital seven times. I'm having fun now.

    • Thereal McCoy

      137 tl;dr

      Several thoughts that I bet have already been expressed:

      *How many friends/dates you have isn't just about how many people want to befriend/date you. It's also about how many people you want to befriend/date, and whether there is any intersection of those two sets (want to date/befriend you-you want to date/befriend) (intersections of dating and befriending are a whole other can of worms). I bet you could find someone who wants to date you. That doesn't mean that, for whatever reason, they are someone you want to date.

      *value as a dating partner doesn't seem to be that well correlated to dating status. You can be a shit human being and a shit dating partner and still have dates. You can be a great dating partner and not have dates. I don't think the number of dates or relationships or friendships is the only or even he best indicator of someone's value as an SO/friend. No one wanting to date you can also say something about the particular circles in which you run.

      *No one ever tells me they can't believe I'm single, either. No one who knows me personally and interacts with me, anyway. I'm totally ok with that. First, it means they are voluntarily butting out of my private life. Second, it means they don't set me up with some jackass whose only qualifications are being single, male, and looking, and it means I never have to listen to anyone say I am too picky when I reject someone having different interests and life goals or for being unattractive to me.

  • embertine

    My recently-ex-girlfriend was one of those people who couldn't be alone. She had dated people she didn't love, like, or fancy (or hell, weren't even the right gender) just to avoid being single. Always having the next one lined up just in case. Staying with someone who was a drunk, or who beat her. I just. Do. Not. Fucking. Understand it.

    We recently broke up and, although she was mostly lovely and I have some great memories of her, I will always feel that I was not good for her, just good enough to stay with. Which was a pretty low bar in her case, see above. And now I am single, probably looking to change that at some point, but for now just enjoying my free time and the sudden absence of passive-aggression from my life.

    I have a number of coupled friends who always make a point to me about how I'm totally fine being single. And I think, well yes, why wouldn't I be? It's only then that I realise that someone like me, who might like a relationship but doesn't NEED one, is considered like some kind of mythical unicorn and held up as an example of You Too Can Be Free Of Crippling Loneliness By Giving Up On Love! Which sucks for people who really ARE lonely, and sucks for people like me who just want to do our thing, whether that's by ourselves or with a partner.

    People don't always want the same things in their lives, and even the same person might not want the same things all the way through their lives.

    • MCSpanner

      Obviously my experience doesn't make it a guarantee, but I gave up on "love" and I'm actually the happiest I've been in a long time. Chasing the impossible is quite tiring, mentally and psychically.

    • Waddles

      Yes, I have friends who are miserable when not in relationships, and sometimes enter bad ones just to be with someone. I think I have the opposite problem; I generally like being single so have passed up opportunities that didn't seem 100% right at the time (also, I'm reasonably shy and have suffered from depression in the past, and so learned to be alone and find meaning in life without someone else). Then again, I've hung out with people who I think were into me but who I felt like I had no spark with, and I wouldn't have wanted to start a relationship with them only to hate it and make them miserable too.

    • velveeta

      Nothing profound to say except tat this was awesome:

      "People don't always want the same things in their lives, and even the same person might not want the same things all the way through their lives."

      Exactly. A relationship is NOT a contract that people are automatically going to want the same things. I appreciate your pointing this out!

  • LeeEsq

    Another complaint, I'm really getting tired of the forever alone schtick. I think its unfair and insensitive to expect people who want to be in a relationship but might face the prospect of spending decades or maybe even most of their life alone thrilling. This is especially true if your hearing this from somebody who started experiencing romantic and sexual success at an average or even young age? If you told most people that they would have to spend they are going to live to eighty but won't meet their partner until sometime between forty and sixty than most people are going to be pissed and for good reason. Having to go through half or three-fourths of your life single might not be forever alone but its close enough.

    • MCSpanner

      Especially if it is not just their partner, as in someone they'd spend the rest of their life, with but a partner full stop.

      I think some people who had their first relationship, no matter how terrible or shortlived, before they could get into a 15 certificate film struggle to grasp that concept.

    • reboot

      Even those who had sexual success and a relationship (that went sour and lasted 14-15 years longer than it should have) do not necessarily like hearing this either. I have to bite my tongue every time someone says I will meet someone new one day. I do not know that I want another relationship ever. I may want sex but am not in a mindset to have it ethically (treating partner like vibrator with a pulse=unethical and that is my current headspace).

  • Patrick

    It took a very long time for me to have my first girlfriend. And yeah, part of it was me worrying "what does it say about me that I've never been with anyone?" But mostly, it was wanting to have an experience that seemed pretty exciting, and feeling crappy that no one was attracted to me, and wanting to feel loved. It wasn't primarily "oh well, time to have a girlfriend now, 'cause people who are alone are losers".

    This might not be most people's experience, but I have to say that in my case, having my first real relationship made a HUGE difference. Just knowing that it was *possible* for someone to be attracted to me was a really big deal. Even though the relationship was dysfunctional and fairly short-lived, I came out of it feeling like "okay, now I know it can happen, and if it has happened once, it will happen again, and I just have to be patient". No, it did not make me significantly more confident or less socially awkward. But I sure as hell became a lot more comfortable with being alone, and a lot more optimistic and relaxed about my future prospects.

    • Patrick

      Part of it was, I think, that however screwed-up the relationship with my first gf was, there was no doubt whatsoever that she was into me. If it had been one of those relationships where you're basically being treated like a pain in the ass and you wonder why they're even dating you in the first place, then yeah, that would have ended up being pretty damaging.

    • LTP

      I totally agree. It's much easier to draw on experience to soothe yourself "well it happened before so it'll happen again, no biggy" has much more of a positive emotional effect than "well, I know that the theoretical odds of me never having a girlfriend are low despite never having had one, so no worries."

  • Gman

    The funny thing about the timing of this post is that I am now beginning to date someone after a very long while of absolute nothing and I must say that it is helping me to keep a straight head and remember that even on my own, I am still mostly satisfied with my life and I am working on improving the things that I don't like about it. I want to be with someone not so that they can "fix" me somehow, not because I expect them to magically make all my problems go away, not because I was completely miserable until I met her and I expect her to make things right, but on the contrary: I feel that this is working out because I am in a healthy place both in general and specifically on a psychological level – that I am all around happy about myself and what I am doing in my life right now and all that I am looking for right now is to ADD someone cool to share this life with. Nothing more.

  • LeeEsq

    That guy in the third photo, the one with the Jim Bean bottle, might have more success if he didn't take his styling types from the Geico neanderthals. The man needs a haircut and beards are best when well-trimmed rather than wild.

    • That's kinda what happens when you're stuck on an Antarctic research base with a bunch of dudes and one alien thing that keeps assimilating your buddies.

      • God I love that movie. Seriously, I love that movie so much.

        I actually saw it on my first date with my first really serious girlfriend (felt like I had to tie this comment back into dating somehow).

      • LeeEsq

        I apologize for not recognizing Kurt Russel.

    • LeeEsq

      The fact that this is getting down-voted is ridiculous and confirms the worst stereotypes of fandom.

      • reboot

        Could also be the wild man beard set that did not like you bashing their style. Some men can definitely rock that look.

        • FormerlyShyGuy


  • ksponar

    I spent my V-day at Katsucon with all my friends. I was plenty happy without having to worry about a boyfriend. Anime Conventions are a great way to spend V-day with or without a mate.

    But honestly, being alone on V-day is not a new concept. Sure I hated it as a teenager, but over the years I realized, "Eh. Who cares?" Not to mention that I cared more about "Day After V-day" when all the overpriced chocolate was chopped down to cheap prices. Oh, and then there are the adorable-day cards you find on tumblr.

    I think for some people, they just kinda "grow out" of the silly festivities and hate the holiday gets.

    • velveeta

      So true…as we grow older, Valentine's day tends to mean what we make it mean. Then again, I always found it to be a Hallmark Holiday at best, and what the Dr. calls it — an unholy day of obligation — at worst.

  • That Guy

    Excellent article Doc.

    Over the years I've found that I enjoy being by myself more than being with someone else. Coupled with my Aspergers, borderline asexuality, and difficulty in understanding non verbal communication (primarily the BS known as "flirting") it's just so much easier to be alone.

    As for V-day as far as I'm concerned the "holiday" doesn't exist. The day after "Discount price chocolate day" on the other hand is a day worth celebrating. More so if you have a sweet tooth.

  • Talbiz

    I spent Valentine's day as one of three days I took up driving from where I lived in Northern California to where I was getting a job in South Texas, if you ever want to forget the instance of that day, spend it driving down I-10 by yourself stopping only to pee, get gas, and eat schlotzsky's, I don't really have a problem with Valentine's day, but I completely forgot its existence this year.

    I just recently started to feel like being single doesn't make me broken, and honestly, that realization has made most everything better.

  • LTP

    I liked the sentiment behind the article, Doc, but I do have a qualm with how you wrote it.

    While you acknowledged that humans are social animals, it did feel a bit hand-wavy to me. I kinda got this message from the article: "Yes, yes, humans need social interaction, but really, just stop feeling lonely. Just stop it. Simple." As somebody who has never dated and who has struggled to develop any meaningful friendships for years due to mental illness, I want to say that it isn't a choice whether you are happy being alone or not happy being alone if that status is a long term condition (in this case, I'm referring not just to being single, but not having deep friendships either). Sure, if you move to a new city, you shouldn't take a huge self-esteem hit if you don't really have a social life for the first few months, but being alone in the long term wears on the mind. I think I saw a study cited once that said that chronic loneliness is just as bad for people's physical health as alcoholism. Much more likely to suffer from a variety of physical and psychological issues.

    I hear the "be happy being alone" spiel all the time, but the funny thing is that it usually comes from people who aren't alone (maybe they were alone, but they aren't when the advice is given). Reminds me of the people who regularly have sex with their partners saying that sex is no big deal.

    Anyway, maybe someone like me isn't the target audience of this particular article. I do agree that people who get depressed on Valentine's day just for being single need to change their perspective.

    Also, a question. If people should just feel fine with being single, why does this site exist?

    • AstralDazzle

      In response to your last question. I have been "not trying to date" for a few years. For a while I was healing from a few bad things across family, friends, and romance/sex that happened and re-evaluating what I needed and could ask for in all relationships. Plus I had to put most of my energy into other really taxing life goals in places I don't stay for too long. I have rarely been this alone in my life, and I know it's not good for my energy and mood to be quite as not-social as I am, but I'm much less lonely than I have been in an unfulfilling relationship or among people who can't (and probably don't want to) relate to me.

      It took me a long time to realize that for people who had interests outside the conventional who haven't had an exactly easy time of dating and relationships for various reasons, including not the greatest social and communication skills, it takes an awful lot of effort to grow and learn what matters to you and find someone who fits. This site is one that has really been helping me learn those things better. Now that I have a better understanding of how a bunch of different people in this boat are experiencing the world (and how very common it is!), it helps me. I flirt more, try to make sure I emphasize what's important to me right off the bat, initiate or follow-up contacts with less pressure and angst, give not much more than a side-eye, sigh, or a cranky evening to guys flaking or being ambivalent. When I can start to make romance a priority again, I will be in a much better mindsoul space than I ever have before all of this.

      • SarahGryph

        I can relate to a lot of this, as I've also been not-trying-to-date for a few years now; also thanks to a lot of bad things happening over a short period of time. It's perfectly possible to be fine with being single right now (I am) and for an unknown period in the future (yep) while still realizing that you'd eventually like to date and/or date again. In my case, this site has helped me gain some perspective on some really awful habits I picked up from my last long term relationship. It was very toxic and left me very hesitant about interacting with people in general for a while, much less people I find attractive.

        When I was in high school, I didn't consider myself attractive at all. In my early 20's there was an odd ( to me) period of time where it seemed liked lots of people had interest and I had no idea why. (Of course, most of them were bad matches for me in one way or another, but I sure didn't fully realize that.) Reading through the articles and comments has been a good way for me to learn from my past and to think about how I want to go about things in the future. Which of my habits would I like to reclaim, and which ones probably weren't serving me anyway?

        I should also add that I had a lot of conflicting feelings after that last LTR, too. On the one hand I've usually had a level of "I'd rather be single than with someone who made me miserable." But after spending years with someone who did make me miserable and who never really gave me any emotional/physical/mental support; I felt crazy lonely coming out of it. Yes, worse than when I was single. And yes, it lingered with me worse. For me, it took a lot of time sorting through what was actual, normal feeling lonely (normal for me, I mean) and what was the depressed, clingy, oh-god-why-doesn't-anyone-care that had roots in all the other crud. It hasn't always been pleasant, but this site and the people on it have also helped me take a more honest look at myself – both the part that can be a bit too standoffish AND the part that wanted to be all rawr-clingy to "make up" for what I'd been lacking. (spoilers, neither one is a good thing 😛 )

        I realize it's different when you don't have any past relationships to look back on than the position I'm in. But the way I *feel* is as if the years I was doing alright were effectively erased. Not like "they were worthless and didn't matter;" but I don't really remember who I was then anymore. Like, I can tell stories and remember my logic at the time enough to compare experiences with other people, but when it comes down to how I interact *now* I feel like "I don't even know how to even anymore," so it's helpful that way, too.

        • "But the way I *feel* is as if the years I was doing alright were effectively erased. Not like "they were worthless and didn't matter;" but I don't really remember who I was then anymore. Like, I can tell stories and remember my logic at the time enough to compare experiences with other people, but when it comes down to how I interact *now* I feel like "I don't even know how to even anymore," so it's helpful that way, too."

          This. A thousand times this.

          • SarahGryph

            I'm not glad someone else is in that sort of spot, but I'm really glad that made sense to someone else!

        • AstralDazzle

          The getting back to normal. The well, did that normal lead me into the crud and do I need a new normal? And what the hell happened between those years I was doing alright and the crud that came to pass? I totally do that logic, and the thing is, everything makes sense! And so much of the crud is from: a minor enough misjudgment, gamble, price-of-admission-benefit-of-doubt, add stressful environment that saps energy and attentiveness to flags, slowly turn up the heat, and voila! Boiled Frog! I also keep discovering, with every round of crud, how very much crap I was taught in my youth I have to unlearn.

          • SarahGryph

            I very much agree with the Boiled Frog; by the time I started getting out of my stuff I'd start to try to explain things to people who hadn't seen me in ages and I'd stop partway through. Not that they didn't care, but because giving the short version made it sound either made-up or like I must have had a lobotomy. But nope, it's just that it happened by bits and pieces; by the time everything was really crashing down I was already operating at a 50 on a scale of 1 to 10…I just didn't realize because, you know, just one more step!

    • Anonymous

      Yeah, I've always also noticed that the people who say just magically "be happy being single" are always people who have had relationships before. Also, I've noticed it's very common for people like us to be 100% happy with who we are and what our lives are about as individuals, and not have a relationship, and still be unhappy.

      There's a big difference psychologicall between having had relationships at least once and not at all. The gap is enormous. I imagine it's much easier for people who've had relationships at least once to say "it's ok being single" because unlike us they *know that they've had relationships before and therefore can easily believe they'll get another eventually*.

      My advise: Keep fighting with all you've got to get a relationship and show absolute determination and willpower. I know for me part of how I define myself is that I need to prove that it's possible for me to have a relationship. Notice the difference between us and them. We're fighting just to prove it's POSSIBLE whereas they're talking about merely being in yet another relationship. It's a whole different world, and these articles seldom treat the subject objectively in my opinion.

      Humans are hard wired to feel a NEED to have a certain minimal interaction with others. You can't change that. No amount of willpower stops a person from feeling lonely deep down, however much they can pretend otherwise.

      You and I are in the same boat. Keep fighting the good fight until things work out. 🙂

      • AstralDazzle

        I totally get where you and LTP are coming from, and a lot of people on here have been there in one way or another. Many of us have also dated someone in this position, because almost everyone will be in a relationship eventually if that's what they want, and you'll likely be dating someone who has stuff in common with the commenters on this site. Learn from our relationships with people who turned out to just want to be in a relationship with "someone" or who thought that being in a relationship would make everything else better, so they didn't work on the things that were also causing their distress (and for real, when we were that person).

        I don't know how old you are, but I know many people who fall into the target demographic of this site, who didn't have a whole lot of dating experience, were rather lonely for stretches, but cultivated interesting, active, healthy lives and eventually found a great long-term match: one in early 20s, one in late 20s, and a couple guys in mid to late 30s. I'm pretty sure they're all more content with their outcome than I, who has dated more than they have but have not found a lasting love partner.

        On the opposite end of the spectrum, from my knowledge of what befell acquaintances and relatives, I want to nudge people against getting so stuck that they spend the bulk of their time in pick-two-or-more-of drinking, smoking, gambling, overeating and/or not getting (enough/the right kind of) help for any health problems or traumas, which works increasingly against their physical and mental health and appearance over time. Following any of the advice on here, even if it doesn't give immediate results and you have to feel the loneliness worse than if you were numb, from my observations, is going to result in happier outcomes.

        It's not so much a superficial, "Be happy; not lonely" as "cultivate a meaningful singleness that meets most of your needs in a happy way so that the loneliness won't lead you in the quicksand arms of corrosive toxicity." (It can do that, oh yes I know…)

        • LTP

          I hear you Astral, and I agree with most of what you say. I think people who think relationships will "fix" them, or who will have a relationship with any warm body in their age range out of desperation are doing themselves a disservice. Indeed, as horrible as my lack of a social life has been throughout my life, I would (most days) still take this over a string of bad relationships. At the same time, there are days where I wish I had had bad social experiences rather than none, so at least I could feel more alive, though usually I snap out of it. What I'm doing now in my life is basically self-improvement, though at a much deeper level than the scope of this site.

          I guess I just felt that this article didn't do enough to acknowledge how important social interaction is (beyond a few token qualifiers) and how some people can't just "not feel lonely" even though they can and should mitigate it by improving your life in other ways.

          • The thing I do when I'm super lonesome? Go do new things I know I'll enjoy. I just went to my first concert yesterday(Michael Graves ex-Misfits) and had the biggest blast of my life, met new people, and it took away the cloud of loneliness I'd been feeling. I've been single for nearly 3 years now, and between that realization, having another case of oneits up until a few days ago when we fought viciously(it got ugly for both of us, but that's not here nor there) and the fact that school/work/life balance is difficult for me, it was easy for me to get sucked into feeling lonely and sorry for myself. But times like this, its important to do things for YOU. Experience new things, do what YOU love. Ever hear of treating yourself? This, above all is what I feel that saying is getting at.

    • I know what you mean. Years ago, after a bad breakup, I made a decision to stay single for a while. I was fine having fun with it for about two years, then started thinking that since marriage and kids were a goal, and I was in my 30s, I'd better make an effort to start dating again. I didn't expect to find the right person immediately, but I never expected what occurred. Four more years of dealing with guys who would act like my boyfriend for a spell, then start all kind of "I'm afraid of labels" nonsense. By the end of it all, I was not exactly happy with single or dating. The "you need to like being alone" comments were especially irritating. A girlfriend even told me "you're not ready" because I told a guy to take a hike when he kept acting wishy washy. Really? More like he wasn't ready. I didn't need more years of single time. That's what 20 something's do. I'd done that.

  • LeeEsq

    I should also point out that this article is topical because I basically decided to live happy as a single-person rather than fret about love and sex life anymore. its simply not worth the mental anguish. If I remain single for the rest of my life than so be it. It has its advantages. I am basically free to do as I please without worrying if a girlfriend or wife need me around when there is something that I want to do.

    • enail0_o

      Good for you, Lee! I hope it helps you feel happier!

    • MCSpanner

      Took the same decision a month or so ago and the only thing that annoys me these days is the fact I listened to the "Don't give up, it'll happen one day" shtick for so long.

    • Gentleman Horndog

      Being happy with the life you're leading is the important thing. Good luck, man.

  • trixnix

    I've been single for years. Honestly, I'm not sure why. It did get to the point where I questioned whether I was actually attractive to women at all, whether I had enough looks etc. I thought maybe I was too big,too balding (the hair is escaping quite fast but god I'd look iffy with it shaved off). I got depressed and upset about the whole thing, bought into a scarcity mentality etc. I think I've had so many people tell me how much of a piece of crap I apparently am in my life that it took hold and I didn't put myself out there as much as I maybe could of. I noticed the feeling of approaching a woman I had wasn't about rejection. It felt like I was worried that I would get punched or thumped for putting myself out there. An old worry from when I used to get bullied at school.

    It's only what happened last year that has changed my mind on this. I've never known so much pain in my life before. It's time not to fear the old things anymore.

    One step at a time. I may have thrown caution to the wind this evening and got a woman's number. I've no idea what to do with it or what to say to her and this is why I love having female friends.

    I need to stop worrying too much what other people think and, judging by what happened tonight, I need to go for what I want more because there's a chance I could actually get what I want. (I mean her number).

  • Thereal McCoy

    "Long lists of cliches like “you’re free to make your own plans” and “you always get to watch the movie you want to see” is just trying to put a smiley-face sticker on a sense of shame and inferiority and pretending that this makes it all better."

    Says you. I fracking love making my own plans and picking my own movies.

    • AstralDazzle

      Also, when in a relationship, after a month or two of "If we didn't have our standing weekend date, I could spend the time cooking something I like to eat and not feel selfish, watching what's next in my Netflix queue and not feeling selfish, going to that party/music thing and not feel selfish, or flirting with people who could maybe meet my sexyneeds and not feel guilty," that's a really good indicator that the relationship is over. Being in a relationship doesn't necessarily mean that someone enjoys much stuff in common, wants to go out– have sex–or cuddle/show affection in any way other than the routinized greeting kiss and pre-sleep sort.

      • Georgia_D

        Me too. I'm a single mother and over the last 16 years I've had a number of short term relationships (usually lasting a month or two), and the occasional friends with benefits/ one night stand type things but for the majority of that time I've been single. I would like a relationship but I'm starting to wonder if all these years of being able to do what I want much of the time would make it difficult to accept the compromises of being in a relationship. I like being able to do the housework my own way (or not do it as the case may be), see what friends I like, eat biscuits for dinner (when my daughter's not home), surf the internet for hours and indulge in hobbies some consider uninteresting or a little strange. In short, I'm happy being single and whilst I would like a relationship sometime in the future I don't want one enough to actually go out and look for it!

  • rammspieler

    I'm just glad that I spent V-Day working at a physically demanding job and managed to forget that it was indeed V-ay for the most part. I think the best part was when a long forgotten friend started PMing me over Facebook and we talked about our failed relationships (or in my case "attempted relationships") and not feeling bitter at all. It still sucks to be in your mid-30's and never ever had a relationship. But it's not so bad when you get to share the misery.

  • trixnix

    Okay, seriously,, what's a good first message to a woman you met last night?

    I don't get to do this kind of thing very often. I've had advice from female friends and I want to avoid sounding like an idiot. She seems cool and, ideally, I want to take her out somewhere and find out more about who she is.

    Trying not to let scarcity mentality creep in and I'm not getting ahead of myself. She was just…by far…the cutest woman in the room. And I don't mean looks only. She had this thing about her which was really cool.

    I've done the wait 24 hours thing. She gave me her number but I've got given her mine yet. What the flip do I do?

    • Gentleman Horndog

      1) Is there anything cool where you live happening any time soon? Any sort of arty-type show that sounds interesting, or that you've been meaning to check out? Any restaurant or coffee place that you're particularly fond of where you know the ambient noise is low enough for good conversation?

      2) "Hi, this is trixnix; remember me from last night? There's this really cool thing I identified from Step 1 above. Would you be interested in joining me there on Friday night?"

      Be prepared with a Plan B on both place and time, in case one of those doesn't work for her.

      Good luck, mate.

      • trixnix

        Thanks, GH.

        Think I've got a case of "analysis paralysis" at the moment. I don't want to get ahead of myself and I don't want to do anything daft either. I think we've got comfort since she had a habit of repeatedly touching me. I'd like to think there's a possibility for attraction but I want to find out more about who she is. Her work and studies mean she's probably going to be really busy.

        There's a gig on at the end of this week but I can't go to it because it'll be in a small venue with people knocking into me and my body is still a bit weak because of the injuries.

        I've got a cinema social coming up but there'd be more people than just her and me at that and no opportunity to chat.

        There's loads of good coffee places in the city where I live. Whether I could make them sound interesting or not is another matter. She was telling me all this stuff last night and I couldn't hear a lot of it because of the noise in the venue and I'm taller than her . Mind you, being taller her meant that I could get closer to her to hear her and she seemed more than okay with that and she was puzzled why I'd not continued the conversation I'd had with her at the start of the evening (in truth, I lost my nerve and though the better looking guys in the building stood more of a chance…if I'd not thrown all caution to the wind I might have done nothing).

        I know not all experiences will be like that but I kinda want to meet more women now. Not necessarily for sex. Just for the chance to meet people. Happy to meet men too (though not interested in sex with men) but the not being attracted to men means I don't get as nervous talking to them as I do talking to women.

        Would asking her out for coffee be okay? This is the UK and god knows if people go on coffee dates here in the UK anymore. I'm over thinking this, I know. I'm not expecting huge things and I have my hopes under control. Just I really want to find out what she's about as a person.

        • Gentleman Horndog

          I can't speak to the nuances of dating in the UK vs. the US, but between this:

          "She gave me her number"

          And this:

          "[S]he had a habit of repeatedly touching me"

          And this:

          "[S]he was puzzled why I'd not continued the conversation I'd had with her at the start of the evening"

          … take freaking YES for an answer and ask this woman someplace the two of you can continue that bloody conversation already. 🙂

          • trixnix

            Thanks, GH.

            My friend who I was with last night suggested "do you fancy meeting for a coffee or drink sometime soon?"

            Part of me wants to add that she seemed cool and I'd like to get to know her better and be specific about a time and place to meet. I guess I've got this far for the first time in ages and I'm often afraid of doing something wrong. I mean, hopefully this won't be the only opportunity and I'm not getting ahead of myself. I'm just confused as to what was coming out of my mouth last night. Wasn't the "usual me". A lot of it was from this site and others and I seemed to be just putting myself out there a lot but in a much more powerful way than I have done before. I have no idea how I did any of it.

            I know nobody can tell me a surefire way for good stuff to happen but there's a self doubt that has a lot of power in me sometimes and it's hard to ignore it sometimes.

          • Gentleman Horndog

            I know this is scary, man. I know exactly how paralyzing all that self-doubt can be, that feeling that any moment now she's going to realize you're faking it entirely and bust you.

            Relax. Don't worry about how you're doing this; you're doing this. Don't worry about why this is happening; it's happening. Don't worry about fucking up, because you will — at some point, you're going to say something foolish and sub-optimal. So will she. That's what happens when fallible human beings interact with each other.

            This is how you move forward. This is how you overcome those fears. And if this all goes to hell, if it turns out you (and your friend, and I) are totally misreading her, or if you DO say or do something that irreparably buggers it all up, then shit happens, and this is all just practice for the time things go well.

            You can do this.

          • She likes you already. You don't have to do anything complicated. Just be in the same place with her.

            Only one comment: "sometime soon" isn't a good idea. Invite her to a specific thing at a specific time. "Would you like to get a drink with me Friday night?" or "Would you like to get brunch Sunday morning?"

            You really don't have to do anything more complex than that. I know it feels scary but simple is your friend here.

          • trixnix

            Thanks. I'm a little bit nervous as I'm looking to get in touch with her before she has a chance to forget who the flip I am. I thought something specific would work and it's a shame Friday is International flipping rugby match day in my home city this week. No chance of getting quiet time to talk in any bar or pub on the face of the city.

            Saturday night is possible but it might be busy and she's going to be a popular woman with friends that go out and stuff (I guess). Could try for drinks Sunday or coffee Sunday but I'm not sure if that would put me in the "God, he's in his thirties….why isn't he sleeping off a hangover on Sunday" category. I've been told to keep it simply by the men I've asked and by the women I've asked but simple and specific is blooming hard and I have an appointment later on this evening. I'm busy Thursday and doing tomorrow would freak the crap out of me way too much.

            How's: Hi, it's trixnix. Remember me from the thing last night? (I want to put some line in here about thinking she's cool/interesting and wanting to get to know her more but god I don't want to sound like a creep here/scare her off). Would you like to get a drink with me Saturday night? Sunday morning? (different options. I'd only include one of them and see what she says).

          • trixnix

            I could break my appointment on thursday but god knows if she'd be free. How do guys who get this a lot of the time handle this. Flipping heck.

          • Gentleman Horndog

            Waitwaitwait. You met her at a " thing"? DUDE. The signals you've been describing are green lights even OUTSIDE a context where single people are trying to meet other single people to ultimately become less single.

            SHE IS LOOKING FORWARD TO HEARING FROM YOU. I would wager on this. Heavily.

            Yeah, keep it simple. You don't need to say you think she's cool and interesting and want to get to know her better; that's pretty clearly implied. As to Thursday, would you rather be doing what you currently have planned, or seeing her? If it's the latter, then present Thursday as an option, and if it's the one that works best for her, adjust your plans accordingly.

            And don't worry about her thinking you're a loser for not sleeping off a hangover on Sunday. You're not the kind of guy who sleeps off hangovers on Sunday. If that's a lady-boner-killer for her, she's not somebody you want to be dating anyway.

            Dude. You've got this.

          • trixnix

            thanks to GH and eselle28. Yes, met her at a thing. She was my "match" on the night. She is beyond cute. Not in looks. I mean, yeah, she's hot. But its not about that. There's something I can't put my finger on that makes me want to get to know her. Just not had "green lights" from anyone never mind fun people before.

          • Christine

            Go ahead and contact her without more hesitation. Specific is better than general, but WAY too late in life I learned that "something is better than nothing." Good luck!

          • trixnix

            "Go ahead and contact her without more hesitation. Specific is better than general, but WAY too late in life I learned that "something is better than nothing." Good luck! "

            Thank you. I've contacted her.

          • Psychophysicist

            Too late for my advice then, but it's to treat her as you would any interesting person you'd like to get to know better.

            Send her a message saying simply "Hi, it's Trixnix from last night. You gave me your number so I thought I would text you so you had my number too. I'd love to talk to you again someplace where it's not so noisy. How about coffee on Sunday morning?"

          • trixnix

            "Too late for my advice then, but it's to treat her as you would any interesting person you'd like to get to know better. "

            Too late or not I still really appreciate your advice. Thank you. I felt time was of the essence and decided to send the message before watching the movie I went to see with friends this evening.

          • HermitTheToad

            Good for you man. You've got balls, be proud.

          • OtherRoooToo

            "How do guys who get this a lot of the time handle this. "

            They do not wait to ask her out.

            Let me put a little "motivating fear" in here from 'the ladies' side', as it were:

            Do you want her wondering "Why didn't he ask me out?"
            Do you want her wondering if you weren't interested?
            Do you want other people to book up all her time so you can't see her till next month some time – by which time she might well have met someone else and you might have lost your chance?

            It's one date.

            Don't be That Guy.

            Call her up!

          • Gentleman Horndog

            Yes! This!

            It's evening where you are, yes? Quit faffing about with us! She gave you her phone number for a reason! Use it! 😀

          • Ethyl

            trixnix, any update?! We're dying here 🙂

          • trixnix

            "trixnix, any update?! We're dying here 🙂 "

            The message has been sent. It was sent in the cinema before you're asked to turn your phones on and I've not looked to see if I have a reply yet.

          • Ethyl

            Woo hoo! That's fantastic! I hope you like her as much the second time and she's not a crashing bore once you get some one-on-one time 🙂

          • trixnix

            "It's evening where you are, yes? Quit faffing about with us! She gave you her phone number for a reason! Use it! 😀 "

            Thank you. I have used it. Honestly, this is all new to me. Thank you very much for all your support and the same to others on here who have given me advice and support.

          • Delafina

            +100 internets for use of "faffing."

          • trixnix

            "Do you want her wondering "Why didn't he ask me out?"
            Do you want her wondering if you weren't interested?
            Do you want other people to book up all her time so you can't see her till next month some time – by which time she might well have met someone else and you might have lost your chance? "

            This probably won't make sense to anyone who doesn't know me but my insecurities are currently screaming. They've sense something new is in the mix and they don't like it. And they are right to be worried. When I said it was time not to fear the old things anymore, I meant it.

            Before I really realized what I was doing, I had a conversation with a random woman in a shopping mall this evening. She was just there and I just seemed to end up talking to her. Not in a kind of Pick up approach type thing. Just a little conversation and off I go. It felt like me but it also didn't if that makes any sense.

            I'm not used to being the guy women talk to. This is new. Like this evening for instance. Normally there's a fast heartbeat going on in social situations but tonight there wasn't. I could breathe and I could move. I could slow myself and my movements down and relaxing my body just seemed to work.

            I'm not going to be that guy who doesn't get in touch. I'm a former journalist, writer and current hypnotist/therapist so I obsess about wording too much. I went with asking if she'd like to come with me for a drink and then suggested a date. I have a place in mind if she says yes.

            Thank you.

          • eselle28

            Sunday sounds like the right day. I wouldn't attach any judgment to someone asking then.

            You shouldn't break an appointment, tomorrow is probably too soon for both of you, and I think Saturday is a tough night to ask for if you don't know someone well.

          • Sunday is the right choice. Don't overthink it. She already likes you, so she's likely to see "he wants to meet on Sunday" as "Wow, isn't it nice to meet a guy who doesn't spend all Sunday sleeping off a hangover?"

          • shaenon

            Echoing Horndog, it's really good to have a specific destination in mind. Something like: Hi, it's trixnix from the thing last night. There's a (coffee shop/bar/whatever) I've been meaning to check out, and I was wondering if you'd like to meet up this weekend. Are you free (day of week)?

            Personally I'd go for a coffee place over a bar (unless it's a quiet bar that will allow you some intimacy), especially if the last event was loud and social. A more relaxed atmosphere will give you the chance for conversation.

            You may also want to have a slightly more ambitious date idea, like a movie outing, ready to suggest if the meetup goes well. It sounds like you have activities in your life that can easily include her, which is great. Hopefully she'll have ideas too.

          • trixnix

            "Personally I'd go for a coffee place over a bar (unless it's a quiet bar that will allow you some intimacy), especially if the last event was loud and social. A more relaxed atmosphere will give you the chance for conversation. "

            Thank you. I went with drinks in the end because drinks could be turned into coffee and I know this bar which kinda does both really well. I have a venue in mind but I'm waiting to see if she's free before talking about that. To be honest, I just wanted the message sent.

            I'm going to Sunday lunch with a big bunch of friends and they offered to let her come too but I want one on one time with her and secondly, well…I'm not ready for her to be part of my life in that sense yet. I'm not even sure she wants to get to know me yet. One step at a time. See what happens.

          • eselle28

            Drinks together instead of lunch with your friends was the right move. The two of you have only met once, so the idea of being judged by a panel of someone's friends might seem very intimidating. It also blurs the line between dating and friendship, which I think would be the wrong connection to go in given that the two of you met at a dating event.

          • trixnix

            "Drinks together instead of lunch with your friends was the right move. The two of you have only met once, so the idea of being judged by a panel of someone's friends might seem very intimidating. It also blurs the line between dating and friendship, which I think would be the wrong connection to go in given that the two of you met at a dating event. "

            Thanks, I agree. My friends are being protective of me. I haven't been well at all and I think they look out for me a lot these days. Which is amazing. And, as I said to two of them this evening, it's also time for me to look out for me.

            I don't want her judged by a panel of my friends. I want one on one time with her so I can get to know her if she's cool with that.

            I've had the ride of good feelings that come from good results and positive experiences before. And this is different. Last time, "dodgy" looks from some of the women at the single's night bothered me and stopped me. This time they didn't. Might need to scale it back in some areas a bit so it's more smooth and controlled. Who knows.

        • Gentleman Horndog

          … and don't sweat whether the coffee place sounds interesting or not. Choose a place where you're comfortable and that you think reflects well on your taste. If she says "yes," it's probably not because she's eager for some coffee.

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  • Drac

    What would also help would be for us to ditch the "crazy cat lady" stereotype we throw out at unmarried women over 40 or so. What do you think makes ladies so intent on marriage, even to the wrong guy? Us telling them over and over and over and over – in movies, in reality TV, in real life – that if they don't get a ring on that finger by a certain age they'll become a worthless, pathetic figure of ridicule.

    The stereotype also perpetuates the idea that most hoarders are women. This is dangerous bullshit. Most hoarders are men. Most animal hoarders are men. Most cat hoarders are men. Ask any firefighter, any Humane Society worker. In fact, ask any social worker who can't get some old guy's family to believe he needs help because hoarding is supposedly a "woman's thing". You have no fucking idea.

    • velveeta

      Thank you for bringing this up.

      It's really hard being a single woman, especially when one is made to feel like her "expiration date" is up. It would take all night trying to list the many sources of this message; all I want to emphasize is that we start hearing that we are due to "expire" when we're pretty darn young. Pressure like this, coupled with peer pressure (all one's friends are married or engaged or happily ensconced in a LTR), can lead one to make lousy life decisions. It can also wreak havoc on the self-esteem of, say 30 or 40-something women who find themselves single.

      This article makes the valid observation that it's a couples' world. It reminds me of Bridget Jones bitching about the "smug-marrieds" (God that was so obnoxious!) I can speak as someone who has been through the confusion and rejection that come with being a single mom in a suburban couples' community. You don't get invited places. And it's hard to feel sociable when you just feel like you don't belong. It's very hard trying to be your best self in this atmosphere.

      It would be nice if our entertainment industry would throw single gals of a certain age a bone and portray them in a non-stereoptypical light!

    • OtherRoooToo

      "What would also help would be for us to ditch the "crazy cat lady" stereotype we throw out at unmarried women over 40 or so."

      That stereotype actually starts at about 30 now.
      Something about the universe expanding faster in the 21st century, or some such.
      /not kidding

      I don't know about the hoarders – with the exception of "Top Chef" and "Worst Cooks", I am emphatically anti-reality-TV – but I can't tell you how much I appreciate someone saying this other than me, because I'm about a thousand miles past sick and tired of saying it over and over again and getting pooh-poohed and dismissed for it.

      So thank you.

  • hobbesian

    While I agree with you that it is objectively okay to be single, it is still obviously considered by default a state of failure as a human being by much of western society, especially in the US, and it is still up to the individual as to how they experience that state. Personally, I've been Not Single, and I'm also one of those people you claim doesn't exist, or if I do exist I haven't had a real relationship, (they lasted for a few years combined, I'd say they were real) or however it was that you phrased it, who would rather be in a bad relationship than not be in one. I've said that before, and I will go on saying it. I would rather be in a bad relationship than be single. That is my choice, and just because you dismiss it doesn't make it any less valid. Some people were willing to sell themselves into indentured servitude in order to get to the new world, think of this in the same terms. I'm willing to sell myself into indentured servitude to a potential partner in exchange for not being alone, even if that person is horrible to me, and all the ones in the past pretty much have been, I would rather do that than be single.

    If other people can find happiness while single, I applaud them, but I cannot.

    • trixnix

      Yes, it is your choice. You'd rather be in a bad relationship than be single. I'm not sure if it's fear, self hate or something else that motivates that choice but you're free as an adult to make such a choice. I just wonder if you are actually happier in a bad relationship than you would be if you were alone but not in a bad relationship.

      Other people have been horrible to you. Doesn't mean that was right. Doesn't mean that's what you have to accept.

      • hobbesian

        Yes, you are right. I don't have to accept it, but I would accept it if it were the only offer.

        Why does it have to be any of those things you listed? why does it have to be internal?

        • trixnix

          "Why does it have to be any of those things you listed? why does it have to be internal? "

          It could be anything external or internal. It's just that there usually is an internal motivation whether there is any other kind of motivation present or not. We find it hard to go beyond our own internal thoughts about ourselves.

          • hobbesian

            my internal thoughts about myself are right, that's why they are my thoughts. After all, I know more about myself than anyone else on the whole planet..

    • embertine

      I suppose where I struggle with this is that I find it difficult to understand how a person could be genuinely happier in themselves being with someone who was abusive (or boring, unintelligent, unattractive, utterly devoid of any redeeming features, had a habit of kicking puppies) than being single. But if that is really true for you, rock on. Mop up all the ghastly people so the rest of us don't have to.

      • Hobbesian

        No no there are plenty of things which I wouldn’t put up with. Being unatractive and unintelligent are two of those. I have standards, her personality as a partner just isn’t one of them. I wouldn’t have any problems finding a partner at all if I didn’t care about looks or intelligence.

  • Swinton

    I worry that my extreme comfort in being alone will ruin my chances of ever being in a relationship. I have no drive to find love, no yearning for that special someone. I like my friends, and my job and my family, but I also like my own company. I enjoy spending time with me. If by chance I do meet someone who I want a relationship with, I don’t know how to balance the comfort of being alone with the demands of having a partner.

    I have heard the phrase aromantic and I would use it, except for I used to fall in love all the damn time as a teenager. I loved people I knew and people I didn’t know with an intensity which boggles me looking back. So clearly I once had a desire to be in a relationship, and maybe my enjoying alone has ruined my relationship capabilities.

    • If you are happy, then I would not worry too much about it right now. I would advise being mindful about and attentive to the variety of ways that people have relationships, so you can have a greater base of possibilities to draw on when you do meet someone you want to have a relationship with. There isn't one right model, and the more you know about the ways people balance their own desires with the demands of having a partner, the better the odds that you'll find something that will work for you.

    • embertine

      maybe my enjoying [being] alone has ruined my relationship capabilities

      If it has, does it matter? It sounds as though you have a lot of good stuff in your life. If, at the end of your life you were looking back which would you regret more? Being single, but happy and fulfilled and surrounded by love, or forcing yourself into relationships you didn't necessarily want just to fulfil society's expectations of you?

      Being long-term single really is a valid choice.

  • trixnix

    Just want to say thanks to everybody yesterday who gave me support and advice. I sent the woman in question a message but she's leaving soon for a placement as part of her studies. Thank you to everyone who offered their help and support. Fate doesn't like me.

    • eselle28

      Ah, I'm sorry to hear that.

    • Gentleman Horndog

      D'oh! Ohgoddammit.

      Sorry, man. That sucks.

      • trixnix

        Thanks GH and Eselle28.

        Yeah it sucks. But I think If I'm going to do this then I have to take the rough with the smooth. In a way, this is why I overly worry about what to do and say sometimes. Even if the signs are good, some random stuff turns up and things go haywire for a bit. It is a shame because she was fun and I wouldn't have minded getting to know her as a person.

        There's noise from the insecurities in my head: what was I thinking thinking that someone that attractive could like me/be interested in me? She talked to another, much better looking (than me) guy and maybe that guy got more success? Maybe I went way out of my league and forgot the problems with my face, my body and the balding? Maybe I should have "known my place".

        And it is tough not to buy into that stuff. It's been in my head a long time. It's the voice of the doubts I have about myself.

        But I ran into my ex briefly yesterday evening and I phoned her earlier today to talk about things. She said to me: "trixnix, the guy I saw yesterday was amazing. Don't let him die just because you're disappointed you didn't get what you want yet".

        It is hard because I would actually like to get the first date stage after so much time. But she is right. I went above and beyond my comfort zone this week. I have my friends, my family, my social life, I'm regaining my health and I think the importance was not so much on getting a date or getting laid as becoming the kind of man I actually want to be. I spent so much time in the seduction community abandoning who I was and trying to be someone I'm not. This is different. This is who I am magnified by confidence in who I am. The purpose was not to get laid. The purpose was to raise from the ashes of last year a version of myself I am and can be proud of.

        I don't know if she was attracted to me at all. But that night showed that women I find attractive could and did show some kind of interest in me. There's learning opportunities here. Yes, the lack of getting exactly what I wanted hurts, frustrates and makes me want to doubt myself. But the time really has come to not fear the old things anymore.

        • eselle28

          I think that's the right lesson to draw from this. Sometimes you get part of the way to where you're going and then something unexpected happens…but that's still better than not leaving your house at all. It sounds like you had fun at this event. You enjoyed talking to this woman, she was interested in talking to you, and you exchanged phone numbers. Compare to the last event you discussed, where it sounded like your jerkbrain was doing most of the talking when you described it – feeling unwelcome in groups, being judged, and so on. What happened over the past couple days is the right direction. I'd say you should feel good about yourself for being willing to push past the insecurities.

          • Ethyl

            Yes, eselle continues to be wise. And even though nothing will come of it, she at least found you acceptable and interesting and attractive enough to hand her phone number to *even though* you were outside your comfort zone. That's huge! And you responded to that by respectfully asking if she'd like to get together, meaning she didn't have an experience that left her feeling afraid or humiliated or angry. So I think you can count this as a win.

  • Brandon

    "there are worse things
    than being alone
    but it often takes
    decades to realize this
    and most often when you do
    it's too late
    and there's nothing worse
    than too late”

    ― Charles Bukowski

  • Shajenko

    My dogs were born on February 14th, so instead of Valentine’s Day, I celebrate their birthday. Works for me.

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  • Marcus

    For me, it wasn't merely the idea of being chronically single that bothered me so much as the idea that I got into my head that there's this limit genetically imposed upon me that's just set in stone. What I mean is that I might see a girl that I'm really attracted to, that's the fantasy, and then I'll see a girl that I'm truly not attracted to, that's the reality. It's either I eat a plate of rotten fish or die a bit slower of starvation. No matter how much I wanted to be with someone I genuinely love and am attracted to, I'm probably just gonna have to settle for someone I feel nothing for if I want to be with anybody at all.

    Or perhaps I'll just find this huge personal flaw in whoever I find attractive so that I can tell myself that I probably wouldn't have liked her anyway if we did start dating.

    What I came to realize that all that self-pity, with every internal declaration of "a girl like that could never love someone like me," or whatever I did to protect my ego, was just another way of saying "I want to avoid the pain of rejection, so I'll give myself a good excuse to never even try."

    It also helped to realize that there are millions more girls out there than I'll ever possibly have the time to meet, so if one decides I'm not for her or vice versa, fine then… I'll meet someone else at some point and we'll see what happens! Developing an abundance mentality helped me a lot too.

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  • Maybe a good analogy is that if the single life is Windows 2000, then a bad relationship is an "upgrade" to Windows Vista. The only problem with that analogy is that it's a painful reminder of how far we are from being able to type "sudo apt-get install girlfriend".

  • Calvin Joshua

    This was EVERYTHING. Thank you so much!