Hey Dr. NerdLove,
I am 26 years old and have been hard on myself for being (mostly) single for the past few years. Many aspects of my life are great. I have a great job in Los Angeles programming video games, above-average physical fitness, a good group of friends, and interesting hobbies. I perform well on online dating websites, and with effort, get about one online date a month.
That said, I feel that my diet restrictions are holding me back from performing better in both online and real life dating pools. I have celiac disease, which requires a strict gluten-free diet, and I also have a number of other mild food allergies. Restaurant outings are stressful, so I have organized my life around mostly avoiding them. I spend my weeknights cooking a particular rotation of food, and then pack the leftovers for day trips throughout the weekend.
This lifestyle is manageable, but it has some hard limitations. I spend 7-10 hours per week cooking, giving me less time for social outings or dates. It also kills my ability to do anything impulsive. If I click with an online dating match on Monday, I can only offer to go out with them on Friday at earliest. My friends tell me that most women lose interest within a couple of days, so I am potentially missing out on an unknown number of dates. I fear that my scheduling restrictions, combined with the limited number of restaurants I am willing to eat at, gets interpreted by women as a lack of enthusiasm for dating them.
In the real world, my lifestyle limits my random social encounters. My friends are great, but they never eat at gluten free restaurants, so they never invite me to grab dinner with them. By far, the worst events are the paid social dinners catered for 20-somethings. I get the double insult of paying for food that I can’t eat, and conspicuously bringing my own food with me. The last thing I want to talk about with people I have just met are my diet restrictions. I skip these entirely.
Most of my social life involves hosting or attending house parties. In my experience, these have been great for strengthening existing friendships, but a slow way to meet new people.
What can I do to take my dating life to the next level?
Diet Destroys Dates
I have a few thoughts, DDD, but before that, let me reach back into my personal dating history for a second.
Back in the day, I dated a woman who had a veritable list of allergies that she suffered from. This is not an exaggeration; she literally had a list of what she was allergic to, and it was important because those allergies ranged from “really annoying” to “very, very dead”. Dating her meant that I was going to have to put a great deal of thought into dates and activities in ways that I hadn’t had to before; even something as simple as my eating food that might contain allergens that affected her could turn a good night kiss into a quite literal kiss of death. As a result, it was hard to plan quick impulsive dinners (at first…); any date that involved food meant a not insignificant amount of research, checking and double checking everything about where we might eat. But she was awesome, so hey, you do what you have to.
What I learned while dating her was to de-couple dates from food, at least in the early days. Until I had a better idea of what restaurants were safe, our dates were more activity based – going dancing, hanging out, singing karaoke, taking walks, etc. It meant being a little more creative and getting away from the usual “dinner/movie” paradigm which is a stale date anyway. And the more familiar I became about her dietary restrictions, the easier it was to be more impulsive. It meant having a smaller list of places to go for a quick meal – we couldn’t exactly go check out the cute new bistro on a lark – but it worked well.
(Incidentally, she’s married to a great guy and has some adorable kids, so clearly her dietary allergies didn’t hinder her romantic life too badly…)
So let’s bring it back to you, DDD.
What you have right now is a gift, in a perverse, wish-you’d-kept-the-receipt-so-you-could-give-it-back kind of way: you know pretty much right off the bat whether or not somebody is going to be compatible with you. You have specific, non-negotiable restrictions in your life; if someone can’t or won’t work within them, then the two of you were never going to work out in the first place. Similarly, if someone is going to see the fact that you can’t eat certain foods as a deal-breaker or an inconvenience they don’t want to put up with, then they have self-selected straight out of your dating pool. Does this limit the number of people who’ll say yes in the first place? Yeah… but at the same time, you’re not wasting the time, money or emotional energy on them just to find out that it would never work.
But that’s all on the emotional, philosophical side of your dating situation. Let’s talk about the practical side.
The first thing to do is simple: be up front with your restrictions. Don’t be apologetic or roll it out like you’ve been cursed by an old Roma woman because you ran over her goldfish. It’s not something to be ashamed of or to be embarrassed about, it’s just part of who you are. So let people know up front on your dating profile: “FYI, I have celiac disease, so I have some dietary restrictions.” Simple, direct and to the point. Folks who are going to be scared off by it are folks you wouldn’t be dating anyway. It also means that there’s less worry that you’re somehow showing a lack of interest.
It’s the same thing with your schedule issues. Lots of folks have tight schedules, and not many people are able to go out on dates beyond an hour for coffee or drinks on a weekday in the first place. That’s not likely to be an issue. Similarly, don’t stress the inability to be impulsive. Not every woman wants to just take off to wherever the whim takes them; there’re plenty of women who appreciate planning and structure.
When it comes to keeping the emotional momentum going before the date, there’re a number of ways to do that – especially if you’ve met up via OKCupid or other online dating sites. If you can swing it, you can meet for a mid-week pre-date date – that aforementioned hour for coffee or a quick drink – while you see Ms. Right On Screen is also Ms. Right In Person. If you can’t… well, it’s not like you can’t continue the conversations you were having before you set up a date. If the two of you were vibing and having a great time writing back and forth, you can still text or message each other. They don’t need to be long or involved conversations, but even a short jokey or flirty exchange can keep that ball rolling until Friday night.
Meanwhile, build up a repertoire of dates that aren’t focused around food. Comedy clubs, pool, skee-ball, go-karts, dancing, hikes, museum tours, even things like Mystery Rooms all make for excellent dates. Picnics give you a little more room to be impulsive and playful while still making sure you have food choices you can eat. And as the two of you get closer, you can have hang-out dates at your place – you might even invite her over for a home-cooked (and gluten free) meal. Bring wine and candles and it’s instant romance.
(Oh, and as a slight aside: dude, your friends kiiiinda sound like jerks. I mean, they may be great in other respects, but if they never really stop to think that “Hey, DDD can’t eat here, maybe we should look for a place where he can come with us…” that’s kinda shitty of them. But that’s a rant for a different time. )
Don’t let your restrictions get you down, DDD. As any artist can tell you: having some boundaries to bounce off of can inspire you to greater levels of creativity than the (surprisingly) intimidating option of infinite choices. It’ll take a little more prep work and planning than it might for other folks, but you don’t have to let your worries hold you back from the dating life you want.
I have been with my wife for almost 19 years, married almost 15, and have a dilemma. Recently (the past few months or so), she has been asking me how much I love her. I think she is playing around and give her an answer like “more than I can begin to tell you”. Actually, I feel the answer should be “enough to put up with you for asking such a question.” I am the sole breadwinner and do the cooking and food shopping, as well as drive when we go out (she has a license). I also do everything I possible can for her. She isn’t a queen or princess or anything so she isn’t spending money faster than I can make it. We have a joint credit card that she uses and the highest the bill has been was a few hundred dollars for Christmas gifts. With all I do for her, I don’t know why she continues to ask this question nor how I can answer it to her satisfaction. I am feeling like I am being pushed away when she asks this question.
Please provide your thoughts.
This… isn’t really a dilemma, QC. She’s not trying to push you away. It sounds more to me like someone who’s just looking for a little reassurance that you love her now, even after nearly 20 years. Joking answers can be cute and funny, but if she’s actually feeling a little insecure or worried about something, then the best thing you can do is give her a serious answer and tell her why you love her.
But here’s the thing, QC: if you want to know why she’s continuing to ask the question, then the person who can answer this question is your wife, not some loud mouth asshole with a blog. So use your words already. Ask her why she’s asking and what she needs to be reassured that yes, you do love her. She’ll be in a much better position to tell you what’s going on than I am.
I’m a 44 year old engin-nerd in the process of getting divorced. I’ve been avidly reading DNL for the last several months as my marriage took its last few turns around toilet; lots of great advice, though FAR to late to rescue us.
My question is about after the divorce. I realize this site is tailored more to younger never-married folk, but have you spent much time considering older divorcees? Much is your breakup advice is good, but impractical for LTR. For instance, I can’t very well erase every trace of my soon-to-be-ex. Children are notoriously hard to get rid of, and the courts will make me pay, regardless. We see each other pretty much daily as we shuttle kids around, etc. that’s ok so far, but nuking Facebook and burning pictures won’t make any difference. Besides; its one thing to erase a 6 or 8 month girlfriend from your life. It’s quite another to try to eradicate 17 years of your life.
I’ve poked around the site a bit and not seen much regarding divorce. Is it something you could branch out into, or is it too far out of scope?
Down in the Dumps Divorcee
I think you have a mistaken idea about the point of the Nuclear Option when it comes to break-ups. It’s not to completely erase the person out of your life and pretend like that part of your life never happened, it’s to give yourself the space you need to heal. It removes the temptation to constantly check on how they’re doing, see whether they’ve gotten over you or if they’re dating someone else and re-opening those wounds when it turns out that yes, she has. Getting rid of her number and her contact information is to make it that much harder to make that late night drunk call or text that does no good and just makes you feel like a giant loser the next day.
Obviously, there are times when you can’t completely cut someone out while you take care of yourself. In your case, you’ve got your kids and ideally you want to maintain at least a cordial relationship with your soon-to-be ex for their sake if nothing else. And the key to that – especially in the early months when things are raw and painful – is to establish and maintain some respectful boundaries. Keep things civil, polite and a bit distant. You don’t need to know what’s going on in her life that doesn’t immediately involve you or the children and vice-versa. Politeness costs very little and pays off in the long run. Even when seeing her is like a slap in the face, biting back all the things you want to say is an investment in the future. It’s much easier to salvage a friendship – or at least a functional co-parenting relationship – when you didn’t give in to calling her a stinky pirate whore like you may have desperately wanted to.
Take things slow, keep lines of communication open exactly as much as needed and give yourself space and permission to grieve and to heal and to forgive. It’ll be hard, but you’ll be able to make it through.
While anxiety has often kept me from finding success in the real dating world, I was hoping that would make me a good candidate for online dating. After all, that’s what it was created for, right? Getting people together who wouldn’t otherwise be able to meet?
So I’ve been trying it out, and haven’t had much luck, because it seems now there’s a whole culture to online dating that I’ve missed out on. And apparently, if you don’t know the rules, good luck getting anyone to respond to you.
I feel like I’m already anxious enough sending messages out to people, and then I start seeing things on girls’ profiles like: “Don’t bother writing if you’re just going to say ‘Hey'”. And sure, I get it. These girls probably get tons of messages daily and they don’t want to sift through all the BS. But I’m at a loss here. For me, I just want to have an honest conversation with someone, and that usually starts with “Hi, how are you?” or something of the like, because that’s how I want to politely introduce myself. And from there, ideally, we can get to know each other.
But now it seems there’s an exact science to writing the perfect message that shows you’re interested, but not too interested, and casual and romantic and funny and clever, and different from all the other guys who have sent her messages in just the right character count, to get them to even glance at your profile.
Maybe I’m missing something, but it feels so frustrating. How do I crack the code?
You’re in luck, AOL: everything you’re going to want to know about online dating is in my book When It Clicks – The Guide to Mastering Online Dating. I cover pretty much everything you’re worried about and then some. Check it out.