I’m 24 and male, mostly interested in women, and I feel like I’m in a weird place because I’m having trouble finding a committed partner. I feel like I’m a bit behind, and I’m not sure where to go from here.
I have a degree, I’m working towards my dream career, in my dream city, I have many friends, skills, and hobbies, and on the whole, the only thing that seems missing is a loving, committed partner.
I seek it out, and I do find connection, good connection even, and yet after a few dates, it always seems to end. They’re too busy, or they aren’t feeling it, or I’m not feeling it, and I’m back to square one in a month or less.
I feel almost “behind” in this respect, as I have old friends from college with years-long relationships, and others who are more committed and stable in this area of life than I am, and it feels like I’m doing something wrong. I do research connection-building quite a bit, but it hasn’t quite gotten me where I want to be yet.
Some would say I’ve not yet found the “right person,” but it really feels like I have, but it’s been the wrong time, or it’s my fault for not presenting myself “right.” I was also kind of an awkward nerd as a kid and into college. I didn’t have my first girlfriend until I was 22, and that lasted only two months, my longest relationship to date, and I was a virgin until 23, and I’ve never had sex with a partner, only a few casual encounters here and there. This makes me feel worse, because I feel like I’m not getting anywhere in building romantic relationships with others, and that frustrates me.
I guess my questions here are along the lines of “how do I do better?” How do I get myself in a place where I find partners trying to build something like I am? I try to date when I can, and seek out people I can talk to, and enjoy getting to know, but it seems like I’m still not quite getting it right…
-Too Old for this Shit
One of the most perversely fascinating aspects of my job is how arbitrary some things can be. One of the most obvious examples is the idea that there’s an age where you “should” have had a partner or a relationship already… and past that point, you’re simply going to be locked out. Because women — and, let’s be real here, I mostly see this from straight dudes — can tell that a guy missed the window. Somehow. What’s fascinating is that tripwire is always, always that person’s age minus one to five years. I have seen people who’ve convinced themselves that the fact that they didn’t have a girlfriend by fifteen meant that they’d missed their window.
The thing is: there’s no such thing as “too late”. The vast majority of women out there aren’t demanding your dating resume; they’re not gonna ask you to explain this large gap in relationships or why you’ve had so few. What women care about is finding a guy they like, who they connect with and who makes them happy; the number of partners he may or may not have had before her is ultimately meaningless.
By that same token, I see plenty of people who worry that they’re “falling behind” somehow… such as in your case, TOFTS. They look at other people — friends, family members, total strangers — and think that those people are somehow a marker of where they should be. Which is, honestly, the dumbest possible yardstick I can imagine. It’s one thing to say that you would prefer to have had X experience by now or that you wish you’d done Y already; that’s understandable. Those are feelings, desires, things that are personal but not definitional. However, when you start using words like “should”, or comparing yourself to other people, all you’re doing is introducing unnecessary misery into your life.
Here is a truth: using other people as your measurement of where you “should” be or what you’re “supposed” to be is a recipe for heartache. The problem with looking at anyone else and assuming that they are the exact model you should be following is that, frankly, you’re not them. They have an entirely different life than you; they’ve had different experiences, grew up with different parents, had different friends and had completely different challenges and opportunities than you did. The only way that you could legitimately say that you were “falling behind” would be if you were living their exact same life, at the same time and getting different results. But you you didn’t. You’re living your own life, separate, independant and unique from everyone else. You can’t measure your life by anyone else’s, only your own.
Here is another truth: the fact that other people have had long-term relationships — for suitably variable definitions of “long term” — doesn’t make them better or more advanced than you. It just means they have a relationship. Having a relationship isn’t a marker of maturity or progress or what-have-you; all you have to do is look at some of the drama bombs that are high-school relationships for proof.
Here is a third truth: there’s nothing wrong with having had your first relationship in your 20s, or losing your virginity at 23 — even if it was a casual encounter, rather than a committed relationship. These are just data points, not measurements of your worth or progress. They have no inherent meaning except what you give them. And the problem is that you’ve not only given them meaning, but you use that meaning like a scourge to whip yourself with. That’s going to actually make things harder, because you create a mindset that says “you should’ve been able to do this by now. You’re awful, you’re a loser, and now you have to make up for lost time.”
And that mindset is leading to the problems you’re having.
To start with, it sounds like part of the problem is that you seem to expect that each date you go on is going to lead to a relationship and, honestly, they aren’t. Dating is, to a certain extent, a number’s game. The early days of dating aren’t the start of a relationship, they’re about getting to know someone, seeing whether the two of you are right for one another and if there’s mutual interest and chemistry. A lot of times, there won’t be. Not because you did anything wrong or because you’re “defective”, just because you two didn’t mesh up the way you needed in order to work. As a wise man once said: you can commit no mistakes and still lose. That’s not weakness; that’s life.
But if you’re going into each date expecting this to be the last date you ever go on… well, that’s also going to be setting you up for heartbreak. You’re giving yourself unreasonable expectations, which makes disappointment almost inevitable. And if you’re expecting to go from “going on dates” to “a relationship” within a handful of dates… well, that’s going to throw people off. If that’s the vibe you’re giving, then it comes off as needy and desperate; that’s going to turn people off. And if it doesn’t… well, those are people you should run from so fast that you leave a human-shaped cloud behind you.
Worse, it sounds like you’re coming at this from a position of trying to fill a hole marked “girlfriend”, rather than coming to each person and wanting to get to know them. That too tends to put people off. It tells people that you’re less interested in them so much as what they represent, and that’s not a comfortable feeling.
Here’s what you need to do. First and foremost: you need to forgive yourself. You haven’t actually done anything wrong, but you seem to feel like you’ve fucked up somehow. So, ok, fine; forgive yourself for it. Forgive yourself for not living up to some bullshit ideal. Forgive yourself for not being someone else. Grant yourself absolution for not meeting those arbitrary standards and then let them go. You now have a clean slate; you’re starting fresh and clean, to craft your life as you choose.
Next: stop going into dates looking for a relationship. Let go of the idea of relationships or trying to find one. Instead, you are going to treat each date as an opportunity to get to know somebody. Who are they, what makes them tick? What drives them, what do they live for, what do they value. And — more importantly — what makes them worth your time? What do they have going for them that makes them worth your interest? Why should you want to be with them? The fact that they’re attractive isn’t enough. The fact that they’re there is definitely not enough. You need to come to this from the position that you are the decider, that you are the catch and that they need to be deserving of you. Now this doesn’t mean that you look down on the people you date like a Roman emperor; you want them to be worth your time. You want them to be deserving of you. But your time is valuable and your heart is too precious to give to just anyone. So you will get to know people, go out with them on dates and see where things go.
Maybe they won’t be right for you as a romantic partner, but they could be good friends. Excellent! That’s a wonderful thing to discover. Others may be a great match as a sex-partner, but not compatible for a committed relationship. Again: excellent! Sex is awesome, and if that’s what you both want then hey, have a blast. But someone who’s worth having a relationship with will not be common; you don’t want to give your time or affection carelessly. So you give people a chance, but you keep your head and wait for someone who is right. You may find them quickly; you may not. That’s fine. While it may take you a little longer than you’d prefer, that’s OK because when you meet someone who is right for you, then it’s worth it.
The relationship isn’t the goal. The right person is. So focus on getting to know people and just enjoying yourself. When you meet someone who is right for you, then you’ll be ready. Not because they’re the person who said yes, but because they’re them, specifically.
Adopt this mindset, and you’ll not only have a better time, but you’ll meet a better quality of potential partner.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
I don’t even know where to begin properly really. I haven’t summed it all up before into a text. But to start it all I’ve been married for roughly 5 years and things have been going good enough. The occasional annoyances with one another but that’s mostly about it.
The last year however has been a completely different story. I met this girl who is a model by profession, who I ended up becoming friends with. She was the lone supporter of her family from a monetary standpoint, and she had been doing some extremely shady shit which I don’t even wanna mention on here for money. I ended up feeling sorry for her because she was just a kid (20) and it felt as if everyone was just toying with her and she was a plaything for most folks, so on that note I started funding her, so she doesn’t have to resort to that stuff anymore and as far as I know she hasn’t. My wife doesn’t know about said sponsoring that I’ve been doing, I’m pretty well off so it’s not much of an issue overall.
Fast forward: I’ve honestly initially been doing it just as a friend and nothing happened, until she ended up following me on a trip which resulted in us having sex. Since then we’ve been sort of in a relationship-esque situation without it being explicit, that considering I’m married. Now I love my wife, but the thing is ever since this scenario started my sex life at home has suffered, like I have to go to extreme lengths to orgasm with her; there are times when I don’t. My wife does feel I don’t find her attractive anymore (which to an extent is true) and she feels she can’t satisfy me but I just come up with excuses that work and all has been stressing me out. I still love her though, I can’t really imagine my life without her because there’s so much we have together minus the sex element that I don’t want to give up.
Now over time I had (shall explain “had” later on) started developing feelings for my “friend” as well. Which was an ordeal by itself, with its ups and downs but I feel I mostly got over it. However, she still does try to emotionally blackmail me, I’ve told her multiple times that if it’s just about the money I’m not cutting her off (in fact I’ve secured her even further with stocks in her name from one of my ventures) but she’s still adamant on how much she loves me and continues to shoehorn herself into my life to the point that she has befriended my wife just so I can’t get rid of her easily.
Fast forwarding even further, traveled to Kyiv for a friend’s trip, pre-COVID. Basically, my friend has acquaintances all over, so he invited a whole lot of people to get together in Kyiv; as a result, I ended up meeting a mutual friend and we hit it off. I should mention my wife is a medical professional and can’t travel much, on account of her work because her workplace is toxic AF. She doesn’t get any days off (not even national holidays most of the time) and she needs the experience, so I usually end up doing most stuff by myself. So basically the whole thing with my other friend ended up repeating allll over again. Basically the sponsoring (she’s into amateur porn because she needed the money and does like it really), the sex, basically all of it. The only difference being that I find her to be a breathe of fresh air, who I can be honest with. I ended up following her back to her country so I could spend more time with her and yet again I’ve gotten attached to this one now. It has been like almost a year. COVID did shut me off a bit from her because flights were banned, but I traveled as soon as they were open and isolated with her.
In essence I don’t understand what the fuck am I doing. Am I just a cheating asshole trying to validate my shenanigans? A simp? I don’t know what to do about these two women in my life and how to tackle which because sadly I care about all 3. I don’t know how to fix or come out of this situation and what my next steps should be. I can’t really even talk about it with any of my friends because some don’t understand the emotions in play and some I just don’t trust to keep this information to themselves. Like I have a few I confide in and who has witnessed it but they judge the fuck outta me about it which just makes me want to close up overall. Please, any advice to cope or handle this would be appreciated.
Trouble In Paradise
You know the first thing I noticed here, TiP? You use a lot of passive language to describe your affairs. She “ended up” following you, which “resulted” in your having sex. You’ve been in “sort of” a relationship. You “ended up” repeating everything with this new woman, “ended up” following her back to her country and “got attached” to her.
That right there is a pretty goddamn big indicator of one of your problems: you’re treating all of this as though you had no agency in this. You’re telling me a story about how you didn’t make these series of choices that lead to your lying to your wife and cheating on her repeatedly; you just tripped and OOPS you fucked this model you’d been having a sugar-baby relationship with. OOPS you bumped your head and somehow ended up in this other woman’s vagina. Not your fault, these things just keep happening to you.
Dude. Come on. You know damn good and well how shady all of this shit is and has been from the beginning. If everything with this 20 year old model had been on the up and up and your motivations had been as pure as the driven snow, then why were you hiding it from your wife? Why were you having to be sneaky about supporting her if it was just about being a generous guy who has a soft spot for a hard-luck story? While I don’t believe relationships are depositions and folks are certainly allowed to have privacy and secrets, even from their partners, the fact that you were making a point about the fact that your wife didn’t know is a giant goddamn sign that you knew that this was going to blow up your marriage. And while I’m skeptical as all fuck that your intentions were pure and that you never intended to bang her, let’s be real: you were her sugar daddy.
(And for the record: if that’s a relationship people want, more power to ’em. I’m all in favor. But dude, own your goddamn choices.)
Again: notice the passive voice. She “ended up following you” on a trip which “resulted in” your having sex. Bullshit my dude. These were decisions you made. Even if she just up and decided to show up while you were on this trip without your foreknowledge, the fact is that you could have refused to see her. You could have chosen to not fuck her. You decided these things. Own them.
The same goes with the other woman. Once again, these were choices you made. This wasn’t because your wife couldn’t come with you on this journey, this was you making the conscious decision to enter a sugar-daddy relationship with them, fuck them and follow them back to their home country and evidently shack up with her once travel restrictions had been relaxed.
So yes. Yes, you are a cheating asshole. Yes, you are trying to validate your decisions, by pretending you somehow didn’t have a hand in all of them. Not only are you hurting your wife, but you’re stuck in a situation where at least one of them is ready to absolutely blow your life to shit. Oh, look: it’s the consequences of your actions!
And here’s the thing: all of this could’ve been avoided if you’d been honest. You could have started with being honest with your wife and doing the right thing by her. Maybe this would have meant going to couples’ counseling to see if you two could reconnect and rediscover the spark in your relationship. You could have discussed a companionate marriage or an ethically non-monogamous one. You could have gotten a divorce, and while that might have hurt her, it would spare her the greater pain she’s going to feel as soon as all this comes to light. And make no mistake: she will find out.
If you had been honest, then you wouldn’t be in this position. You could’ve been sugar daddy to all the sugar babies you could support; you wouldn’t be stuck lying to at least one person, if not three. Four, if you count yourself. But instead, you fucked around and now you’re gonna find out.
What do you do now? Well, I hate to tell you this chief, you’re out of moves. There is no way you’re getting out of this cleanly. Because let’s be real: you need to cut things with your first side-piece. She’s made it clear that she’s a snake, and she’s going to do whatever she can to keep her fangs in you. The fact that she’s threatened you with blackmail and entangled herself in your life should scare the ever-loving piss out of you. Your only play now is to come clean to your wife, wipe out the first woman’s leverage and pray that the divorce laws in your country won’t completely wipe you out.
(And that’s assuming that your wife doesn’t pull your scrotum entirely over your head.)
And while you’re at it, you should end things with your other partner. Not because she’s done anything wrong but because frankly, it sounds like she deserves better and you aren’t in a position to have any sort of healthy relationship right now.
You’re going to need to do a lot of thinking about your life, a lot of reflection on the choices you’ve made and what you’ve done to someone who you say you love and care for. Maybe in the future, you’ll be able to have an honest relationship — whether it’s transactional or not — but right now, you can’t and you’re hurting people. She may not know how much you’re hurting her but she’s gonna find out sooner or later.
The kindest thing is to keep this other woman from making things worse, even when it means blowing up your relationship yourself.
You can certainly try to keep juggling things, but you’re already deep in the danger zone. The truth will come out, no matter what you do. That’s already been set in motion; the only question is when.
You can try to bluff it out and hope you get lucky. You won’t, but you can certainly try. You have a choice to make.
And the longer you take to do this, the worse it your wife, and the worse it will be for you.