Dear Dr. NerdLove,
It starts about a year ago:
I’m snagging some dice for a new campaign at this out of town game and comic shop one afternoon. Another customer catches my eye, ‘cause he’s just wow: working man’s gear, dirty blonde hair with serious scruff and he’s a big boy – solid with some cuddly poundage. Think Tyler Labine in Dale and Tucker vs. Evil.
He leaves, I finish up, and he’s still outside the store due to a winter sleet storm. I offer a lift and he gladly accepts. We start talking – both came from small towns, do creative writing, and dork out over Kirk coming to the civic center. He thanks me and we part ways.
Fast forward to now: After a few rocky years and much marriage counseling my wife and I call it off in December. (She was cool with my bisexuality as we both took our vows very seriously.) We still attend counseling as we’ll always be co-parents and are amicably parting.
Now I’m starting to explore the male online world and most are married guys who want secret meat on the side or dudes looking for an anonymous pump n’ dump. Neither are worth my health or self respect.
So here’s the crux: Is it cool to pop back to that store on Magic night to see if that Golden Apple of Aphrodite still hangs there – maybe grab a burger and a beer and talk geek afterwards? Or missing him, drop note with a sci-fi short story and ask him to e-mail me one of his?
Haven’t dated in years, and don’t know his preferences, but I not only liked the blind box packaging, I liked what was inside too!
~ Gaga for Geeky Grizzly
Y’know, GGG, I get a variation of this question on a regular basis. In its own way, it’s almost a universal problem: people see somebody who’s absolutely amazing but, for whatever reason, they never say a word. Now they’re left with a serious longing for what might have been and wondering what they can do to get a second chance at meeting that special someone.
And to be honest, the answer is usually “nothing”. Now to be sure: this isn’t what a lot of people want to hear. We all like to think that if there’s a person who by all accounts should be perfect for us that God, the Doctor or the universe will go out of their way to bring us together again, some way, some how. But the truth is that one of the keys to dating success is timing… and that’s often completely out of our hands. Starting a relationship with somebody is all about the intersection of three things: the right person, the right place and the right time. If those three don’t synch up, then even people would would otherwise be a scorching couple will fail to connect. It’s nobody’s fault, just a cruel twist of fate… but all the more frustrating for it. Sometimes you’ll meet the right person in the right place… but the time will simply be wrong. You may not be in a place in your life where you can act on your interest. They may not be in a place where they’re available or open to a relationship. Or there simply may not be time to make things happen – have that brief moment, faster than the single beat of a hummingbird’s heart – and then they’re gone.
And that sucks. That leaves us with an open loop, like a bit of music that gets stuck in our head, echoing over and over, unable to finish because we never heard more than the hook.
But part of what complicates these missed moments is that often we assign too much importance to them. Because that moment of contact was so brief, we never had a chance to get to know them and so we’re left with our fantasy version of them. And fantasy can never disappoint you or prove to be wrong for you in all the ways you know someone can be. You can assign any amount of virtue and value to them because they’re just a frozen moment in time, never subject to the various sins and disappointments that mortal flesh is heir to.
This isn’t necessarily bad. Having that momentary crush, that flash of infatuation is a great feeling. But it’s when we let the fantasy of the person overtake the reality of our lives that we start to get into trouble. When we invest too much into our fantasy of them, we tend to get a little too… enthusiastic… about trying to bring that fantasy to life. We pursue it with too much vehemence and too much eagerness because we feel like it’s our Big Chance. But because people are flesh and blood and not an ephemeral fantasy… well, our exuberance tends to freak them the fuck out. With good reason.
(I mean, imagine being the poor soul who suddenly realizes that she’s the subject of a James Blunt song…)
That’s where you are right now, GGG. You met this guy who was pretty cool… but you knew him for the span of a car ride and from over a year ago. This geeky Tyler Labine-look-a-like may be the cuddly Yellow Lion of your dreams, but you don’t know the person behind the fantasy. You’ve built him into a monument to all the possibilities that you weren’t able to explore back in the day. Holding on to a dream that you built from one encounter is building hopes on a foundation of sand… especially if you suddenly show up out of nowhere and say “hey, we met once a year ago, hit me up.” Doubly so if you leave a message for him.
If you absolutely feel the need to close this particular loop, then yeah, you can take a night to go see if he still goes to Magic night. I don’t think it’s necessarily the best option, but stopping in once isn’t going to be the end of the world. But honestly? I think the better option would to take this encounter with him as inspiration. You have a much better idea of what you want now and – importantly – you know not to let the moment pass you by when it presents itself. Dating may feel weird and strange after having been away from it for so long, but the fundamentals haven’t changed. You still need the right person in the right place, at the right time. Now that you’re in a place to explore this side of your sexuality, the best thing you can do is make sure that you’re in a place where you can take full advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
I’m 21f and he’s 22m. We met online and clicked almost immediately and spoke everyday for at least 8 months. We’d wake up and talk to each other, text each other while we were working our summer jobs, text each other about the little things we were doing during the day. We both found each other to be attractive and would flirt and had a lot of stuff in common. I casually mentioned that I could see us dating since we got along so well, but he is Christian (he seems to be more so on the liberal side tbh) and would like someone he dates to share his faith which I understood. I’m not religious. We continued to talk as usual, and then about two months ago he mentions he reconnected with this girl online that he met a few years back (same site that we met on) who he started to like. They started talking again at around the same time we connected, with maybe a one month span of time between. I had no idea until he sprung it up on me. If I had known I would have fallen back as to not get too emotionally involved. And then they made it official.
It sucked because I started to develop feelings for him but I put those feelings aside and congratulated him. It brought up a lot of bad feelings on my end which I’m ashamed of, but I kept them to myself and kept my cool. After that, I took a social media break of about one month due to a depressive episode I was having and to sort through the feelings for him I had. In the back of my mind I had a feeling this would happen but it happened so suddenly that I felt like I didn’t have much time to prepare and cope.
We recently reconnected and I feel sad because it feels different. It feels weird to not talk to him everyday. For us to both be online and for me to respond to his posts but for him to not respond to mine when he did in the past. For us not to text each other as soon as we wake up, and talk all day about anything until we went to sleep. To not refer to each other as nicknames we have each other (and I admit this point might be over analyzing haha). To laugh at stupid memes and flirt and joke…I miss it. I know that it’s an adjustment I have to make but it does suck, I’m not gonna lie. I talk to guys here and there but it’s been a while since I felt excited at the thought of being with someone. Even if I couldn’t be with him romantically (and he absolutely does not have to return any feelings I have) it felt good to have someone to talk to al day that I click with on many levels.
I guess my main thing is this: Sometimes I wonder if I was just there to fill avoid until he found someone to actually be with. Like he got some emotional fulfillment from us talking everyday without any sort of commitment involved. It really hurts to think about. But on the more positive side, I hope he spoke to me all the time because he genuinely enjoyed doing so. Its like I feel used in a way, but don’t have any reason to because there were no promises made. And the kicker is that I asked him if the flirting meant anything and he said there were no romantic feelings on his end, we were just friends who flirted…and I felt salty. And I feel ashamed for feeling that way. I try to remind myself that as long as I interacted with him in a genuine way I have nothing to be ashamed of but it still feels bad.
So I don’t know. What do you think? Friends who just flirted and probably spoke to each other too much and too often throughout the day? Just someone there to fulfill his emotional needs until someone else came along? Or something in between? I feel like I’m overreacting somehow. Especially considering the fact that no promises were made and I never met him in real life. I just feel left behind and abandoned in some weird way.
Honestly, RG, I think you’re making more of this than there is. There are certainly folks out there – men and women both – who will flirt and string people along because they like the attention and emotional intimacy. They get a slight thrill from the imbalance of the relationship, knowing that they put in minimum effort to keep the other person on the line. They get all the rewards of a relationship – the emotional intimacy, the connection, the feeling of being desired – without any investment of their own. There’s none of that pesky commitment or having to maintain things. All they have to do is give just enough attention to keep hope alive until they find a better option.
But I don’t think that’s what happened here.
There are two key clues here as to what actually went down. The first is that he had been talking with this other woman for approximately the same amount of time that he was talking to you. If it’d been the case that she breezed back into his life as suddenly as she’d left it and he’d always had a thing for her… yeah, I could see him using you as a placeholder for the one he REALLY wanted. But that didn’t happen. It was an organic process that lead to his deciding to make things serious with her.
The other key is that he gave you a soft “no” early on. While there are definitely Christians who believe firmly in the whole “unequally yoked” bullshit from 2 Corinthians, the way he presented this sounds less like a “I can only date within my faith” and more of a “oh, if only things were different, then perhaps but as such, I must live with the regret.” This is a way of softening the rejection and putting the blame on Jesus instead of telling you “you’re cool and we’re great friends but I just don’t like you that way.”
So while I think he enjoyed your friendship, I don’t think he was keeping you around to pass the time until Ms. Right came along.
And while it’s a shame that the friendship has faded… well, there’re lots of reasons for that. One may be that he feels that having such a flirty friendship is inappropriate now that he’s in a committed relationship. Another may be that this relationship just faded, as many do. Not every friendship lasts forever or maintains the same level of intensity. Some flare bright at first, then burn low.
I don’t think you were being used. You had a flirty friendship. Now that friendship is less intense and less flirty. You were more invested in this than he was and, honestly, more than is reasonable considering that you two hadn’t met in person or had any expectation of a relationship. It’s a shame that things have changed, sure… but that’s how things go sometimes.
The best thing I think you can do is either adjust your view of this relationship and accept it for what it is. And if you can’t, if it’s too painful for you? Then the best thing to do is let it go.
I saw on your recent Buzzfeed roundtable that you would love updates from letter-writers, and I figured I’d send mine in.
Several months after I sent my letter about the rules of being the “other woman”, MIC and I had our date. It was nice, we met for dinner and then, because I can’t drive, he offered to take me home. I told him that I wanted to continue our night, but that I wasn’t ready for sex. He was very respectful of that and we enjoyed ourselves for a while, and though I knew I didn’t want a relationship with this guy, we had a really fun night.
A few months after that, he asked me on another date. I informed him beforehand that I although I enjoyed our time together, I’m not interested in being part of an open relationship. Once again, he was very kind and respectful, and I ended up meeting him and his girlfriend for a casual lunch when he was in town.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed myself, made a new friend, and, I think more importantly, stepped outside of my comfort zone, the latter of which (and I guess the other two by extension), I could never have done without your advice, not only in response to my letter, but everything else you’re written as well. Thank you for giving me the confidence and instilling in me the love of open communication with others.
Third Person Singular
Well that’s awesome! Glad to hear that everything worked out well for you, TPS! Thanks for writing in and letting me know how things went.