Doctor’s Note: Today’s column includes a discussion of domestic violence and a brief description of physical abuse.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I had a normal love life until my early 30’s. Once I hit about age 32 (when women, I think, start evaluating dates more as potential long-term partners), all I got was first dates. After this happened many times and being turned down for a second date by a woman who I was positive had a great time, I told her what was happening to me and asked what I was doing wrong. She told me I didn’t meet most women’s financial standards for a man. She suggested I trade in my brand new sub-compact (which I bought debt-free) for a used ‘Vette and describe my job in a way that would make it seem higher in the hierarchy than it was. I wrote her off as a shallow, materialistic jerk. Several years later, though, when I was on vacation, there was mix-up with my car rental and I got a convertible sports car instead of my usual economy. Four women flirted with me because of the car.
I’m a social worker. My income has been a hair above or below median family income in my city for years and is likely to remain at that level. I work with people who’ve sustained spinal cord and brain injuries. I’m well-known in the disability community as a fierce, relentless warrior who’ll go to the wall to get my patients what they need. I’ve saved countless families from homelessness, guided people through unimaginable emotional trauma, gotten a brain-injured wife out from under the control of the husband who battered her into a coma and forced insurers to spend thousands they didn’t want to. Does all that not matter to the vast majority of women since I drive a Prius and live in a 700 square foot condo?
I can’t imagine doing another job solely to increase my income, but I don’t want to go through the rest of my life with no significant other. I swim laps and lift weights so I check the box of being in good shape. Since I’ve been a social worker for years, I must have good social skills. I have diverse interests so I almost never take a woman out for dinner and movie. A date with me is usually a play, concert, poetry reading, art exhibit opening, etc. and I always pay, so I check the box of not being a cheap, boring date. I’m good with money so I have literally no financial worries. My condo’s paid off and I travel all over the US on vacations. If I cut out the trips and sold the Prius, I could easily afford a loan to get a Porsche, but I love to travel, and the freedom of having no debts, although not as much as I love having a girlfriend.
Should I buy the Porsche and describe my job in misleading terms? That seems like a lousy way to start a relationship, but it’s a lot better than no relationship!
Brental in the Rental
Congratulations BitR: you’ve fallen victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is “never take advice from someone who’s promises to teach you ‘better dating through hypnosis and mind control”, but only slightly less well known is this: women don’t give that much of a shit about your car.
So I get that you’re frustrated with your current dating life; you’re having a dry spell for reasons that seem inexplicable to you. I understand why you would be casting about for answers. However, the problem here is that you’re taking advice from someone who is taking her own reasons for not wanting to date you and making the sort of universal declarations about the Female Hive Mind that you usually only see from MRAs and MGTOWs. Whenever I hear people say that you have to have X car or Y income in order to date, I always want to see some actual numbers. Not just whatever Psychology Today article they’re misunderstanding but some legitimate, peer-reviewed research, published in a reputable journal. And then I want them to explain to every male/female couple at any particular Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon that they don’t actually exist. Because even a cursory look around the country is all it takes to see that people who aren’t driving Porsches and Corvettes are still somehow meeting, falling in love and getting married.
If your date had some strange Carrie-Bradshaw-esque “Could I really date someone who doesn’t have a ‘cool’ job?” moment, then hey, more power to her. But honestly that sounds far more like the kind of advice you could expect to get from dodgy subreddits, not something that’s actually practical and worth pursuing. Now I understand why this advice burrowed its way under your skin like a tick; it hews very closely to one of the common and pernicious beliefs about what women want from a man — advice that’s usually given by other men who don’t actually listen to what women say they’re interested in. Because that’s a belief that’s been reinforced over and over again by society and pop culture, it’s very easy to believe it. You’ve heard it over and over again and that often means that there’s a part of you that worries it might be true. So when someone comes along and spins the exact same yarn to you… well, yeah, it’s gonna tweak that little anxiety.
But like I said: if only people who made above the median income were getting married, then at least 38.1 million people would be unable to ever find a partner. Believe me, if that were the case, we would be hearing about that all the time.
This isn’t to say that having more money might not bring some women to the table who might not otherwise be interested. Money is a great way of attracting women. However, you’re just attracting women who are interested in money, not you. And hey, some folks are cool with that. But it doesn’t sound like what you’re actually looking for.
I do, however, want to dig into your example of how a car made a difference to your social life. You say that four different women flirted with you because of the car. What, exactly, makes you sure that it was the car that made the difference? Did they only flirt with you after you said “hey, did you see my sports car over there?” Were they uninterested until they saw the valet pull your car around and then suddenly changed their minds? Did they see you drive up and start flirting after you hopped out? Was it literally the car that made the difference? Or could it be that driving a “cool” car made you act a little differently, a little less insecure and a little more cocky and self-assured? Especially after someone you went on one date with told you to get a Corvette?
Because I rather strongly suspect that if we drill down, we’re going to find that the car was just of a magic feather — something that gave you permission to unlock behavior and an attitude that you haven’t had access to in a while. It’s kind of astounding the things that will affect how we behave; something as simple as telling somebody that a white coat is a doctor’s coat instead of an artist’s smock can cause people to perform better on cognitive tests. Believing that your rental gave you extra cool points can be all that it takes to have a little more swagger in your step and a willingness to act a little bolder. People are more likely to respond to that than seeing that you had a Jaguar logo on your keyring.
The problem isn’t your job, it’s not your car and it’s not your condo or the fact that you’re in great shape, financially speaking. It’s that you listened to one person who thinks that Prius’ just aren’t “cool” enough.
There’re any number of reasons why you might have hit a dry spell in your love life. It could be anything from changing demographics in your city, to the women you’re pursuing and where you’re meeting them to changes in your presentation, attitude or even just having a rough couple of months where shit just didn’t work because sometimes you hit a bad patch for no reason. But what I can tell you is that there isn’t a woman out there who says to herself “man, the last thing I want is a guy with compassion, who saves lives, travels extensively and is almost entirely debt free. Better to find a guy driving a car he can’t afford and lying about his job.”
Are there women out there who’ll judge you by how “impressive” your job is or how “cool” your car is? Sure. But then ask yourself why, in the name of Great Zeus’ butthole, you would want to date them?
There’re some amazing women out there looking for a guy exactly like you. Focus more on meeting them and less on the women who clearly aren’t right for you.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I met someone just before COVID hit. They got serious a lot quicker when I did. They were also living with an ex-partner rent free. When their ex-partner found out they were talking to me, they got thrown out and I offered to let them stay with me. There were red flags early on. They said they loved me quickly and started talking marriage after a few weeks.
I attempted to break up with them, but they came back hours later and, foolishly, I agreed to talk to them. I took them back. Now friends have lost respect for me (some of the things my partner said about me after I broke up with them were… bad). I attempted last month to break up with them again, and they got angry. They put their hands around my throat until I couldn’t breathe and made me say that I belonged to them. They said that if we ever broke up, it would be them breaking up with me. I am truly scared now. But I feel I cannot go to the police. It’s not just the current climate; not that long ago, I was raped and reported it to the police. They victim blamed me and did nothing.
My partner does not work. They do not provide anything to the relationship except stress, which is multiplied because they have untreated OCD. This makes their life hell, and by proxy, mine as well. I’m constantly walking on eggshells.
If I were back home, I would know where to go and what services to access, but I moved to a new state for work at the beginning of the year. The only people I know are my work colleagues and a few people online who are involved in the same geekdom as me. I honestly don’t know what to do, and how to do it safely.
Trapped in Quarantine
This is a horrifying situation TiQ and your priority needs to be to get out as quickly, safely and cleanly as you possibly can. And to do that, you need a plan.
First and foremost: I strongly suggest you get in contact with the National Domestic Violence Hotline. They have trained domestic violence advocates available 24/7 who can listen to you, connect you with resources in your area and help you get clear of this person. There are a number of ways that you can get in touch with them, including online chats and text services if you worry about being overheard or can’t find a time when you’re alone and able to contact them. They can help you find a shelter or places you can go to get out, put you in contact with lawyers and legal services in order to file a protective order against them as well as tenant’s rights associations who can help you either get them off the lease (if they’re on it) or help get them evicted from your place.
I also suggest you keep a journal of their behavior. If they’re threatening or abusive, then write it all down — dates, times, behavior, what he said, what they did… everything. Document everything, keep photographs of bruises or injuries and keep it all in a safe place. Preferably one they don’t know about. Documenting their abuse and threats will make it easier to get a protective order and help you in the event that you decide to press charges.
Next: do you have any coworkers you can trust enough to help you get out? Can you let them know what’s going on? Are there people at work who can, at the very least, hold on to a bug-out bag for you or who you can leave supplies with so that you can leave at a moment’s notice? You are going to want to make sure that you have your important documents (driver’s license, insurance papers, copies of your lease or rental agreement, medical history, passports, car insurance and registration, bank statements, credit cards and ATM cards), a prepaid phone, your jewelry, an emergency supply of cash, several days worth of clothes and medication and any important sentimental items or pictures. Having these in a place that your partner can’t get to them will help make it easier to make a clean getaway from them. If you have a laptop or computer and you can get it out of the house, I’d recommend doing this too. If you can’t, then I strongly suggest changing the settings so that the computer requires a password to log in or any time the screensaver comes up. Locking them out of your computer makes it harder for them to get to your information and either track you down or trash your life.
Getting out needs to be your first priority. If they’ve already been violent with you, then you have to work under the assumption that they will do so again. Your physical safety needs to take precedence. Once you’re in a safe place — even if it’s a hotel or motel, preferably one that’s registered under a friend’s name and paid for with either cash or someone else’s card — then it’s time to focus on protecting yourself in the future. Getting an order of protection — something that you can apply for at courthouses, women’s shelters and volunteer legal associations — will be an important step. Having that in place and giving copies to your employer, friends, neighbors, co-workers or other people who they might contact helps restrict their access to you and increases the odds of consequences if they violates it. You have a very understandable reason to not trust the police, but having that order on file and on hand makes it much easier to have them arrested and charged if they come after you. It’s not a magic spell that will prevent them from harming you, but increases the likelihood that if they attempt to intimidate you or threaten you, they will go to jail. And if they threaten you or you’re afraid they’re going to get violent before you’re able to get out, then CALL THE POLICE.
Again, these are all things that the domestic violence advocates at the NDVH can help you with. Talk to them as soon as you can, then make a plan, and then get out as quickly and safely as you can. Take care of yourself and your physical safety first, then get them out of your life and out of your apartment.
This is an awful situation and I’m so sorry that you’re caught up in it. Get clear as soon as you can, TiQ. And then write back and let us know how you’re doing.