Dear Doctor NerdLove,
I need some advice, um obviously. It’s like this. I have recently started dating again, for the first time in two years. And I’ve so far gone the route of internet dating.
I met a man for a first date the other day (actually my first date in two years) and we had a connection which led to some making out and me staying at his, no sex though. I tried to be clear about not wanting to be in a relationship again right now and about talking to other guys on OKC, but he kept pushing me. Wanting me to say that I wouldn’t meet the other guys or that I would only have sex with him if we had sex, and that we would have sex. The weird thing is that I am pretty inexperienced, 4 partners total, and so it is really unlikely that I’m going to just go out and have a bunch of sex with anyone right away. I guess looking back there was a lot of weird boundary pushing after getting back to his place.
So before we left the pub I agreed to a second date. And then all the stuff in the above paragraph happened and I felt like maybe I didn’t want a second date after all. He kept bringing up sex and it turns out he’s kinky, which is 100% fine, but I’m not kinky, like at all, and it just seemed like the more we talked about that the more I realized we were not at all compatible. But I still didn’t back out of the second date.
To be honest I didn’t feel like I could say no to a second date in person because I felt like there would be a lot of push back. And boy was there. He called me that day and texted me a couple of times trying to set up another date that night, but I had already told him, when we were trying to arrange the first date that I had a lot of work, which is true, so I couldn’t squeeze it in anyway.
When I finally just told him I wasn’t up for a second date anymore I got a lot of questions texted back to me. I know I should have told him right away, but I guess I kept thinking that I was changing my mind too fast, that I wasn’t giving him a fair chance. But I can’t invent compatibility so I did tell him about 24 hours after the end of our first date that I couldn’t go out again.
So my question is really this: what do I do about these texts? The first one asks why I changed my mind, the second one asks what if it wasn’t a date and the third one says that he’s not really that surprised, that I was very clear about “wanting to meet others.” I haven’t responded to any of these messages because I don’t think he’s going to listen no matter what I say. So is that the right thing to do or was there something I should have said? And at what point should I have known that I didn’t want to see him again? I mean I don’t think I’ll go back to someone’s place again, but should I not kiss them either? I feel like it might have been the making out that made him attach himself to me so fast.
Anyway, any advice you have would be great.
Hey, Re-Dating? I hope you can forgive me, because I’ve got something of a larger point to make about socialization and I’m about to use you as an example. I promise we’re going to get back to your question, just stick with me for a minute.
Guys, whenever I talk about how women are socialized to put others’ needs – especially men’s – over their own? This is an example of what I’m talking about. RD goes out with a guy who gets insanely clingy after just one date, who’s ignoring her boundaries and is insisting that she justify why she won’t go out with him again… and she’s wondering what she did wrong. She’s wondering how she led him on, as though she’s somehow responsible for his own issues or his responses.
And people wonder why I’m so down on rigid gender roles.
RD, here’s the thing you need to understand: you didn’t do anything wrong. Making out with a dude on the first date? Totally kosher. Going back to his place: also cool, assuming you’ve got decent Spidey-sense and he’s not giving you the creeper vibes. Establishing that you’re just looking to date? Go you, you know what you want and you’re not just leaping into the first potential relationship that comes along. Decided that you don’t want a second date? Also cool; agreeing to a second date isn’t a binding contract or a blood-oath. You’re not required to go on a date against your will. Just cancel before the day of if at all possible and be polite about it.
(Guys: this goes for you too.)
But here’s the thing: these are all your responsibilities. You’re not responsible for how he responds or how quickly he decides he’s gotten attached to you. From everything you’ve said, you were up-front about what you had to offer, what you were up for and what your availability would be. Meanwhile, lover-boy… whooo, man, he takes the taco. During your first date he’s pushing for exclusivity and demanding that you promise that you’re going to fuck him. I realize you’ve been off the dating market for a while but that behavior? So very not cool. He was waving more red flags than a military parade in Tiananmen Square. At the most generous reading, he’s showing insanely low emotional and social intelligence and has a hard time respecting boundaries and understanding social mores, which means he’s not exactly dating material to start with. At worst… well, frankly, pushing for exclusivity that quickly is often a sign of a potential abuser; they’re trying to lock you into a relationship before you have time to recognize that something might be wrong.
Right now though, you’re letting the bullshit conditioning that says women are somehow responsible for managing men’s emotional lives tell you that you’re at fault for his shitty behavior. You are not. You didn’t lead him on. You weren’t giving mixed signals. You didn’t “move too fast” or “take too long” to change your mind about how you felt. The problem was there’s something wrong with him.
So here’s what you do now: you block his number and you forget about him. He’s a shitty date that you’ll laugh about later with your friends over drinks when you’re swapping horror stories. As for your next dates… you do what feels right to you and at a pace you’re comfortable with. If you’d rather not go back to somebody’s place on a first date, I could hardly blame you after this experience; I could totally understand wanting to take a bit more time to be sure that you trust them and that there’s some genuine chemistry and compatibility there. Somebody who’s worth dating is going to respect your boundaries and limits. Someone who’s not on the same page as you – but is emotionally healthy and socially intelligent – will move on to find somebody else, not push and push and push at you to get what he wants.
But you need to keep in mind: you are not responsible for how they respond. If they get weird, that’s their problem, not yours.
Good luck, RD. There’re better guys out there than that.
Dear Doctor (who?),
I would like to ask you a question about a thing that I find frustrating.
When I am dating a woman I feel very frustrated in thinking when to text her or if I should be absent for a day or two. Mainly because I heard that if you are absent or if you don’t contact her until she texts or sends a message to you.
Personally I think that this is not true… Or maybe not entirely true, but I’m asking this question to you, Doc.
When should we text or contact the woman we are dating without seeming needy and without being creepy?
Waiting So Long
You don’t say whether you mean in the context of someone you’ve been on a couple of dates with (or are trying to arrange a date with) or if you’ve just met. Either way though: you go with the flow. So let’s say that you meant “you just got her number” and you’re not sure when to send a text or are waiting for her to make the first move. Some women will beat you to the punch, but you can’t rely on that. If you get her number and don’t text her, one of two things are likely to happen: either she’s going to forget that she gave you her number or she’s going to think that you’re not interested. Neither of these is good. I think waiting for her to text first is a dumb idea, as is waiting some random number of days. As I’ve said before: I’ll text the same night I got her number just to keep the emotional momentum going and to solidify her memory of me as “that guy she had fun flirting with” rather than “oh right, some guy I talked to the other night, I think?”
On the other hand, if it’s someone you’ve been texting with, waiting some arbitrary time in order to not appear needy or to try to maintain the emotional upper-hand is both douchey and a stupid move. All it does is signal that you’re not confident enough in your own value and you have to play head-games in order to keep her interested. You don’t need to respond immediately – shit, you might be driving, y’know? – but you do want to keep the flow-of-conversation going. If you’re texting back and forth, then keep up a pace that works. You (or she) might be at work and can only text when you’re able to get a few minutes break. You might be having a long back-and-forth conversation before you go to bed that night.
The only rule of thumb I would give is one text per response per day. It’s a serve and return situation. You send a text saying “Hey, had a weird dream about you last night. Just wanted to say you look good in a koala costume. And also: get out of my head. ;)” and don’t hear back? You leave it. You’ve served. Now it’s up to her to return the ball. If she sends the ball back – “The koala suit? Damn it, I told them it was supposed to be a sloth!” – then you can volley it back. If it doesn’t come back, then you wait at least a day before sending another.
Just remember, one unreturned text could be anything. Two is suspicious but reasonable. Three means she’s ignoring you (or lost her phone) and you should stop texting until you hear from her.
Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I’m in need of some advice. My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost a year and we’ve recently been going through some trouble. Up until this point, I’ve been so incredibly happy. We’ve gone on trips together, been through significant moments in each other’s lives, and I’ve felt really supported and healthy.
The problem is that I’m a doctoral student and he’s in law school and the stress of school seems to be getting to both of us. He’s having trouble managing a relationship and school, while also dealing with financial stress. It’s really weighing on him and I can tell.
We’ve had a series of conversations about our relationship and he would like to “take a break” for about two months (until the semester ends). I tried to suggest having a “less intense relationship” but he is worried that he’s not present enough for our relationship, that he’s not doing a good enough job and that staying together is making his anxiety worse. Staying together is also hard on me because I don’t feel as appreciated as I once did.
Do you think a “break” is a good idea? I still really love him a lot and don’t want to lose him. On the other hand, I don’t want to be waiting for someone who just doesn’t love me “enough”. I also don’t know the groundrules for a “break” and if that means we should not be in contact or remain talking. Any advance would be greatly appreciated!
Hang on: he’s a law student and you’re going for your doctorate and you’re dating for a year? I don’t know whether you’re both nuts or I should be asking you for time management tips. Every grad student I’ve ever known barely has time to, y’know, sleep, never mind date. The fact that the two of you have hung in there as long as you have is pretty goddamn impressive… but I’m not at all surprised that the two of you are stressed out.
And let me tell you: unrelenting stress is the death of all relationships, and the grad-student’s life is nothing but stress alternating with tedium punctuated by moments of sheer underwear-shitting panic. Multiply that by two and trying to maintain a relationship under those conditions isn’t just varsity level dating, it’s playing in the Majors.
So yeah, a break might not be a bad idea. As long as it’s not a matter of years, then you don’t have to break up per se; just take a vacation from seeing one another until your schedules ease up enough to spend some quality time together. You’ve both got enough to focus on without trying to keep a relationship alive and splitting your priorities like that is only going to mean you’re not giving any aspect of your life the attention it needs… so your studies and your dating life will suffer. Ultimately it’s up to the two of you to decide what the rules are; I’d be astounded if both of you had time to date other people, never mind each other, but you certainly don’t have to drop out of contact. Just… be willing to put one another on a back-burner for a couple of months while you get through your respective degree programs. Make plans to get together between semesters and take a long and much needed romantic getaway together… even if that getaway is locking yourselves up in the apartment with Netflix streaming and Chinese take-out.
If it’s going to be a year or two before you’re both in a better position… well, then yes, a full break-up is probably in the cards for the both of you. You can only let a relationship lie dormant for so long before it tends to fade. This doesn’t mean that you can’t get back together afterwards, but it does mean that you should be willing to admit that neither of you are going to be able to give the other the care and attention they deserve under your current situation and that it’s better to have a clean break rather than to let what you have whither and curdle into resentment and frustration.