Hey everyone, Doc here. This week, we’re doing something different. As on Monday, instead of my dispensing the dating advice, we’re have have a guest expert taking the reigns for today. Loretta Jean is a writer, artistic director and -unlike me – on track to an actual doctorate and she’s here to take your questions. Let’s do this.
Take it away, Loretta.
DEAR GUEST POSTER,
I am an inexperienced nerdlady of 27 who is trying off-and-on to get some dating practice. I have some pretty vague dating goals. I used to think I wanted a long-term romantic relationship, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more concerned that a LTR would require me to make a bunch of compromises that I find untenable.
Namely: it doesn’t really seem like many heterosexual relationships make any significant allowances for the woman’s career traveling places. Now, I’m not the most career-driven person ever, but I do plan to get a PhD in my subject in the next couple years (the plan is to start next fall, but we’ll see how that goes) and then spend at least a few years at a company doing research in my field afterward. I’m not really sure how to date in the present moment and be open to relationships that may appear, knowing that I plan to make at least two big moves in the relatively near future (well, one year and five years), and knowing that even if I found the love of my life I wouldn’t be willing to stay where I am right now. I can think of exactly one couple I know in real life where they moved to follow her schooling/career — pretty much every other couple I know of involved either the woman giving up her career plans or maintaining a long-distance relationship until she could move to be where the dude worked.
How do women date with this kind of constraint, exactly? There’s definitely a gender component to it (I think a lot of guys are more comfortable assuming their partner will follow them, and far fewer guys are willing to put their plans on hold to follow their female partner) but a lot of it’s just a logistical problem. Can you realistically look for a long-term thing in this situation? Do you just do “short-term dating” (to use the OKC term) until such a time when you can feasibly see yourself staying in one place until future notice? How do you talk about the impending move with people you’re meeting?
Dear Planning Ahead,
I don’t know that there is one blanket answer to your question, nor do I think that all women need to date with “this kind of constraint”.
My advice to you is simply this – don’t settle. Don’t settle for someone who is not supportive of your ambitions, your goals, or furthering your career. There so many awesome people in the world who will want to grow with you, allow you to develop your interests and career path, and who will cheer you on, rather than be a hinderance to what you wish to achieve.
You can date right now, but it sounds to me like you are using your career ambitions as an excuse not to. Maybe this sounds harsh, but I think you are putting up some artificial barriers to dating or making connections based on hypotheticals, rather than facts or what is happening in your life at the moment.
Yes, you may be making some big changes in your life in the foreseeable future, but who knows what will happen a few months, a year, or even a few years from now? I think you need to put yourself out there a bit more, be wiling to take some risk and meet people and see what happens. If someone who you might be interested in is not supportive of your life goals, they are not a good prospective partner, or worthy you time.
Will there be some men who feel threatened by your ambition? It’s possible, in fact I’d say it’s probable. They are not the people who you want to be dating anyway. The best plan of action is to be very forthright and open about your goals with anyone you go on a date with.
For now, I don’t think saying you are looking for long term relationships in your dating profile is a negative thing. Then again, saying you are looking for something short term is not inherently negative either, sometimes it can remain just that, but if you really click with something there’s nothing to say that it might not develop into more. Be open with new people that you meet about where you want to be in a few years. But guess what? Ambition is hot – it means you are driven, confident, independent, and strong. If someone is not willing to be supportive of your goals, they are not right for you.
Not to sound overly cheesy, but love finds a way. If you find yourself in a situation that is a serious relationship, you will figure out a way to make it work, or you will move on and it wash’t that serious to begin with. That might mean a partner moving to be with you, or a changing timelines a bit, or choosing to go to a different school. If someone is not willing to be supportive of your goals, they are not right for you.
Healthy adult relationships involve compromise and negotiation, but that doesn’t mean abandoning the path you are on. The right partner for you will have to be on board with your plans, but finding solution the is agreeable and indeed, beneficial to both parties.
You are embarking on a wonderful journey. Embrace the adventure of it and let go about worrying about hypotheticals. Focus on what you want in your career and everything else will fall into place. Carve out your own path, stick to your goals. Like-minded people who share your convictions will be attracted into your life.
Hello — geek girl here poking her head up since Doc said he was looking for questions from the female set.
I’m 26 years old and have never been in a relationship. This is for a mix of reasons…I think I legitimately wasn’t interested in dating in high school, and then went through a bout of depression issues in college and post-college that kept me from really putting myself out there. I won’t say I’m entirely over these things, but I’ve done a lot of work to get myself on my feet and these days am feeling comfortable enough in my own skin to maybe start getting into the dating scene.
The problem is that at this point I’m not sure how to start, and I’ve lost the milieu of automatic social contact that comes along with the school environment — most of my friends are online these days. I’ve tried the online dating scene but have gotten almost no responses to the messages I’ve sent (which is doubly depressing given that googling “how to write a good online dating message” brings back lots of results written for guys, about how you have to be unique and stand out because women on online dating sites get flooded with messages by default…which I haven’t been).
I know 26 isn’t old, but it’s hard not to feel like I’ve somehow missed my window or am doing something wrong. I swing back and forth between feeling confident like I’m a good catch (I’m smart, funny, exceedingly friendly and geeky, and have a very good and well-paying job, am maybe a little overweight but working on that) and feeling like it’s all over and I’m gonna be alone with my cat forever. It’s a weird balance.
So I guess my question is…have you got any advice for someone trying to date for the first time in their mid-twenties, and for keeping up confidence when it isn’t coming as easily as all these guides seem to suggest?
Thanks much. 🙂
26 Ain’t So Old
Dear 26 Ain’t So Old,
First off: you’re right. You really are not so old. You are maybe lacking in some relationship experience, but really you’re still quite young. You still have lots of life and dating years ahead of you!
I’d be curious to read some of the messages that you have been sending out via dating website. Are they relatively general, or do they specifically mention things in the other persons’ profiles? How do you decide that you want to message someone? Are you mainly sending messaging to others who seem to have similar interests? Which online dating sites or apps are using? (Personally I am heavily biased towards OkCupid being one of the better sites, but it depends on where you live. It’s generally better in larger cities.)
There is no magical formula to writing a good introductory message on dating websites. Just be sincere, keep it short and simple (a paragraph or two at most), and make a few specific references to what the other person has written in their profile. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either, it opens up the conversation for further discussion.
It sounds like you have a very good head on your shoulders and are fairly self-confident. Based on what you have written, my informed guess is that you may be casting too general of a net went looking for potential dates on dating website. You seem to know yourself well, so get more specific in what you are looking for (hopefully that means having some shared nerdy interests and/or specific traits you are looking for). Think of your online dating profile as a writing a job posting. You are looking for someone who fits certain criteria and people who you send your messages to (and who hopefully message to you too) should fit that bill.
It’s always a good idea to a) include who you are looking to meet (get specific) in your dating profile and b) send messages to fellow nerds who share your interests, hobbies, and values. It can also help to enlist a friend to look over what you have written about yourself and what you’re looking for, sometimes it’s really hard to play up your best attributes in an online dating profile.
My next question to you would be – what are your photos like? Photo quality has a lot to do with messaging return rates on dating websites. The best selfie advice I have ever heard is to only use indirect, natural (daytime) lighting and to never use a flash. You might also be able to enlist a friend to help you take and select some photos, or even consider hiring a professional to take some casual portraits of you. You might want to get some lady friends in on it and have a fun day doing a photo shoot together. (Plus how much fun is it to get a bit dolled up and have some great photos taken with your favourite people?)
My last piece of advice is that in addition to having an online dating profile, make sure to seek out social situations with people who have similar nerdiness. Consider taking up new hobbies or going to meet-ups that are relevant your interests. It will be a great way to expand your social circles and meet new people. Even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to dates immediately, you never know who you new acquaintances might know.
Good luck and stay positive, it sounds like you are on a good path – you just haven’t made the right connections yet.
Dear Doc and Guests
I have a great life. I’m one of the lucky people – at 50 I’ve managed to build a career around my values (I work in labor politics). I’ve lived with my current partner for the last 8 years – we can actually talk about kink (when it works and when it doesn’t), we are pretty solidly monogomish and have “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that works fairly well. We aren’t perfect, we don’t expect to be. Relationships are messy, and that’s ok. This was not the experience in my marriage – it’s about 1000 times better than my marriage. We’re both divorced with adult kids, and we don’t have any desire to get married. He’s older than me, so we’ve talked about wills and finances and it’s all good.
So why am I writing to you? Because even after 15 years, I’m still in love with my ex-husband, and I’d really like to NOT be.
We got married at 20, and divorced at 35. I have been divorced for as long as I was married, and I do not believe in “the one”. I was the the one who actively pursued the divorce. The divorce wasn’t mean, but it also wasn’t friendly. I have never sought out a reconnection (and I don’t think it would be healthy), We had a child who was a minor during the divorce and we had good communication until they were an adult – and then we pretty much severed it (and this was good). But he’s still in my heart (and just typing this makes me want to barf). I’m not living in a fantasy land where I think we’re getting back together and it’s a Disneyland happily ever after. But when there is powerful news in my life, he’s still the first person I think of.
Is this one-itis? (I don’t think so, but I could be wrong). Is this because we came together so young? I’ve been trying to move these feelings into the nostalgia realm for a long time, and I’m still not getting there. Can you help?
I Have No Acronym
Dear I Have No Acronoym,
Your life with your current partner does sound wonderful and fortunate. You have great and open communication and seem to be on the same page about where you are at in terms of emotional needs, wants, and the future.
To be perfectly blunt, it does sounds like you have a bit of a case of the “oneitis“. But that’s okay – we can all blame fairy tales, Disney, and John Hughes films for lying to us and telling us that that is the way that life actually is.
The truth is that life and relationships are messy and you seem to already get this.
It’s actually quite healthy that you think back fondly on your time with your ex. It’s certainly much better than harbouring resentment or hatred. Your ex is the parent to your child, they were a huge part of your life during very important formative years, and you had a civil sounding divorce. Cherish all of the good times you had together, but remember that they are in the past now.
Nostalgia is completely normal, but you left that relationship because it wasn’t working for you anymore and you were the on who instigated the breakup. Looking back on the past, we often remember the best parts and idealize them in rose-coloured retrospectacles. You will probably always look back fondly on this person and have positive feelings towards them, but remember the reasons why you left that situation can help you to have better perspective.
I really think the notion of “the one” is a lie. We change so much in our lives that someone who may have been an appropriate partners for us for a specific time period won’t be the right partner forever. We all go through stages where we grow and change. Your ex may have been a good partner to you when your were younger, but it sounds like your current partner is a good fit for where you are right now. It sounds like you need to do some letting go, focus more on the present and the person right in front of you and you will be much happier.
Loretta Jean is a 20-something burlesque performer and academic in Toronto. She is currently working of her PhD at the Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto and is also the artistic director and performer with Nerd Girl Burlesque. She is a contributor to the forthcoming anthology The Secret Loves of Geek Girls, which is currently finishing up its campaign on Kickstarter.