Dear Dr. NerdLove,
I hope this message finds you well. I have been reading some of your advice to other hoomans and figured it’d be nice to walk away with some perspective for problems of my own.
Some things to know about me are that I am a straight, cisgendered 23 year old woman with strong hetero-romantic inclinations towards men, particularly men of color. I am Dominican-American, meaning, I was U.S. born and am a product of Dominican parents. I grew up in a single parent household where my mother was my caregiver and because of that I never really grew up around me or even knew anything about men until I started dating and befriending them some time around high-school.
To get to the point of my issue: I have only had one very real relationship. It was with a Brazilian guy that I met at my University. We hit it off so well that I went on to meeting his family in Brazil and had a 2 year long relationship. Come to find that he was actually just in it for the visa. I should have seen the red flags coming when our first day doing long distance (me in the States and him in Brazil) he was obsessively trying to calculate how to make his way back to the U.S. by coming up with the craziest conclusions. And before you say it was because he wanted to be with me, once that boy got a student visa to come do his masters in the U.S. that was it for our relationship. A week before his student visa coming in the mail and a month away from flying to the states to be exact. Anyway the details as to why I believed he was interested in me for the visa are long-winded and extremely painful to discuss.
Due to my cultural background I know these type of tricks exist. There is even a Dominican hit called “Pa manga’ mi Visa” which is about a two men who delineate specifics as to how and why he wants to date a “gringa” –to get his visa. Over and over I see this happening. Either an actual business like transaction where both parties involved know its a fake relationship with the means of receiving real marriage visas in exchange for money OR the worst one where the other person doesn’t know they are being deceived.
As you can imagine, this experience was really traumatic. As a woman that considers she has daddy issues and has started out life with a very low notion of self worth with an enormous amount of frustration towards myself and constant resugrances of imposter syndrome throughout my academic career –this was a blow to my person. I hit an all time low where I underwent chronic depression and even went through a period of suicidal ideation. Because I gave him everything and loved him unconditionally. Needless to say, he broke my heart.
My first boyfriend was Saudi and all he wanted was to get it in because he clearly couldn’t do that in his hometown without facing some hurdles. He used me for sex and took my virginity.
Present day, I feel pretty healed from that experience and am in the search for new experiences with genuine people. I feel I can speak for all women when I say that it is as though I am constantly hitting a brick wall. Just a few months ago it happened yet again, another Brazilian ( Idk wtf right?). This time it was short lived because I knew to look for the signs. As soon as he said “I have a court case coming up that will determine my status in this country” I knew that that “I love you” one month into the relationship was total love bombing and BS.
Just last week I ended up dating a guy from Venezuela. He has refugee status and is set on that front but due to my past experiences I decided to lie to him by telling him I was born in the DR. But come to find that we had sex 5 times in a row literally a night ago and he already broke the “call the night after having sex rule” where he was texting me every morning for the last week and just right after having sex he completely goes missing. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he just didn’t want to come off as clingy BUT like dude..c’mon. I feel so used right now!!
So at 23 I have reached the conclusion that dating men is hard. Especially when you don’t know much about men. I want to find someone genuine but through my 6 experiences thus far I only get the ones that are horny and only want sex or the kind that want a visa. I know that my easy fix is not dating men that have weird immigration statuses and that I should focus on dating men that already have that documented status secured. But I can’t help but wonder if I am just a means for someone’s ends all the time? Like, I get that people are highly self interested and that being selfish is part of human nature. But I feel like I am a good girl trying to date a good guy. I consider myself tender, humble, open minded, caring and overall really loving. I’m just really pessimistic of the future and what it holds for me. And if maybe I should just remain single. I just find that it is so hard to get caught up in thinking that my self worth is measured by a guy’s attractions towards me and if all life has been handing me thus far is an absent father, a couple visa-seekers, and douchebags that only want sex, it’s hard to believe yourself as someone worthy of love and affection. I just seem to suffer more than most people and get my heart broken too easily. Something that may take someone 1 month to get over literally takes me an entire year. And I don’t want this for myself anymore. I’m done crying and suffering over this and I just want to make peace with myself… I look forward to hearing from you.
Whenever somebody keeps running into the same problems in their relationships over and over again, one of the most important things they can do is start looking for the common denominator in those relationships and see if that’s the problem. In your case, you have two major commonalities, and they’re about as tangled up as a drawer full of charging cables. The first is that you have dated a number of guys from foreign countries that have cultures with fairly sexist outlooks or cults of machismo. The second is… well, you.
Now that’s not judgement. What this means is that you need to examine just what it is about these types of guys that is so appealing to you and why you fall for them. It could be because they tend to be the aggressive, dominant type and that just makes all the right parts of you tingle. It could be that the relative novelty of their having grown up outside the US makes them stand out from the guys you know from around the way. Alternately, it could be as simple as the fact that it sounds like you’re a people pleaser and caregiver and these guys were happy to take advantage of it.
If it’s the latter, then part of what you need to do is examine just what motivates you to be a giver. A lot of people-pleasers tend to find that their generosity comes from a place of low self-esteem; they don’t feel that they have much value on their own and compensate by doing things for others… even if it comes at the expense of themselves. At the same time, you’re going to find plenty of people out there who’ll gravitate towards people-pleasers, because they tend to have poor boundaries and won’t advocate for themselves as firmly or strongly as someone else might. Mix poor boundaries with a desire to please and love-bombing – showering someone with excessive amounts of compliments, attention and affection out of proportion to the stage of the relationship – and you’ve got somebody who looks like free money and smells like free lunch.
To be perfectly blunt: dating is a numbers game and assholes are overrepresented in pretty much every population sample you’re like to encounter. You’re going to find plenty of dudes who’re looking to just get to that first lay and vanish and they’ll say or do any old line of shit to get there. But the good thing is that assholes are fairly easy to avoid and even easier to chase off if need be.
The first thing you need to do is hone your bullshit detector. You’ve already started to be more aware of when folks are feeding you a line; love-bombing and overly attentive too early on are pretty good warning signs. So too are the guys who seem to be telling you exactly what you’re hoping to hear. The more perfect they seem, the more skeptical you have a right to be.
But if they seem perfect, wouldn’t you want to avoid chasing them off? Yes and no. See the next thing you need to do is start being willing to date on your terms, not theirs. Developing strong boundaries, having standards that you won’t budge on, makes you that much harder to manipulate. This may mean that you’ll want to hold off sex until you feel like they’re sufficient trust and comfort built up. It may mean that you’ll be less receptive to pleas of hardship or less-giving to people who haven’t necessarily earned your trust yet. It may mean prioritizing your comfort, your schedule and your sense of security over theirs… even if it feels like this may chase them off. Because, honestly? The guys who balk or get upset when they hit a boundary of yours? Those are guys who’re letting you know that they’re the most likely to screw you AND screw you over.
Now finding the strength to tell folks “no”, especially folks you like and want to like you can be hard. Doubly so if you don’t feel like you have much self-worth. But the truth of the matter is that you have far too much value and worth to let douchebags work you over and con you out of it. You have a lot to give a partner – love, generosity of spirit, caring and so on. The last thing you need is someone who isn’t going to appreciate it or you and who is only trying to take advantage of you. So you need to start recognizing that your worth doesn’t come from being in a relationship, nor from pleasing assholes who wouldn’t do a third as much for you as you would do for them. The last thing you need to do is set yourself on fire just because someone else says they’re chilly.
And don’t forget: “no” is a full sentence. If you feel like establishing a boundary, the fact that you decided to set one is the only rationale you need. Anyone who’s going to try to move it or argue you into letting it down for them is a dude who needs to be kicked to the curb with the quickness.
You’ve done enough to prove your worth to folks who couldn’t give a damn about you. It’s time to let folks prove their worth to you.
Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I started dating in my late 20s – 28 to be exact. I fell in love (or what I believe to be love) with the first person I dated. Our relationship is going great but as it has become more serious and we’ve had conversations about moving in together and even potentially getting married, I’m starting to have a FOMO on casual dating and casual sex. My girlfriend has had those experiences and I find that I am a bit jealous of her getting to do that (I have described as having your cake, casual stuff, and eating it too, falling in love). That’s not really fair to her at all though and I acknowledge that I made my decision – I could have put myself out more in my 20s. But now I fear that I am just latching on to the first thing and am unsure if I’m in love and this desire for casual sex is my mind telling me this may not be right. What do you think / do you have any advice?
First Time For Everything
Here’s the thing, FTFE: you’re always gonna want to bang other people. That’s not a sign that there’s something wrong with your relationship, that’s a sign that you’re a human with a sex drive. Love doesn’t turn off your libido and committing to a relationship doesn’t mean you no longer find other people attractive. As I often say: monogamy doesn’t mean you won’t WANT to fuck other folks, it just means you choose not to. And to be perfectly blunt: any relationship – even ethically non-monogamous ones – mean that you’re closing off potential avenues to different experiences and different partners. You will always be “missing out” – for suitably insignificant values of “missing” – when you date someone.
But here’s what I need you to do right now, FTFE: I need you to be bluntly honest. Not with me, but with yourself. What, exactly, is it about casual sex and casual dating that you feel that you’d be getting that you’re not getting from this relationship? Is it strictly the novelty of seeing other folks naked? Well, I like I said: that’s something that you’re going to end up closing off with any monogamous relationship — and many open ones too. Is it because you feel like you could do better and you worry that you’ve settled for too little? Because any relationship is going to be settling; every relationship means giving up some things that you want because there are no perfect people out there. The key is whether you feel like you have is worth more to you than whatever you may be giving up as the cost of being in that relationship. Or maybe it’s because what you want isn’t the sex per se, but the validation – the feeling that you’re somebody that women would choose to sleep with and thus you’re worth more than others. If that’s the case, then I can tell you now that you will never fill that particular hole. As I’ve said elsewhere, women aren’t Mjolnir and only sleep with the worthy; there’re any number of reasons why women choose to sleep with someone that has absolutely nothing to do with him.
Because honestly dude? I think you’ve got a fantasy version of what casual dating and casual sex is like, and I suspect that if you’d done more dating, you might be more relieved to have found someone awesome. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all in favor of casual sex and dating. I’ve done plenty and I encourage people to pursue that if that’s what they enjoy… but throwing over the metaphorical bird in the hand for two that may not even be in the bush is fucking idiotic.
I think your better option would be to slow your roll with your relationship. I’m willing to bet that part of your panic here is the feeling that this is going to become more than you may want just now. So appreciate what you have, learn all about you and your partner and savor every moment… but don’t rush towards moving in or marriage just yet. Give yourself time to learn about being in a relationship and see where that leads you. Maybe it will lead you down the aisle after all. Or you may find that this isn’t going to be your last relationship and you’ll have your chance to date around after all.
But to quote a wise man: “You know, there’s a million fine looking women in the world, dude. But they don’t all bring you lasagna at work.” Don’t end a good thing because you want to roll the dice on your idea of casual sex.