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Hey everyone, Harris O’Malley from doctornerdlove.com and this is Ask Dr. NerdLove, made possible by my generous patrons at patreon.com/DrNerdLove, and I am here today to YOUR questions about love, sex, dating and self-improvement. If you’ve got a short dating advice question you’d like to have answered, share it in the comments and maybe you’ll see YOUR question featured on here.
This week, I’ve got two questions, both stemming from last week’s episode about overcoming your fear of rejection.
The first comes from Dan Young, who wants to know: how do you approach dating when you really DO have limited options, such as living in a small town?
So this is a legit obstacle that comes up for folks. There are a lot of reasons why someone might have a limited dating pool. Sometimes it’s a matter of circumstance or demographics — such as someone who lives in a small town. Sometimes it’s a matter of choice, such as for people who are in an open or polyamorous relationship. And sometimes it’s due to circumstances entirely outside of their control, such as when you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans.
In fact, LGBTQ folks have it the worst when it comes to having a restricted dating pool; according to a 2017 Gallup poll, 4.5% of Americans identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. That makes them a fraction of a fraction of the general population, and in some areas, the number of other LGBTQ people may well be single digits at best. Some live in areas where they may very well be the ONLY one.
And that’s assuming that they can even date, when being gender non-conforming or openly same-sex attracted can be a very real risk to their personal safety.
But regardless of the causes, when you’re dealing with a reduced or limited dating pool, then you have two choices. The first is that you work within your limitations, accept that you’re going to have fewer opportunities and be comfortable with being single for a while… or you do everything you can in order to expand that pool. This will take work on your part. It frequently requires that you make compromises, face hard decisions about just how badly want it, and it may require a not insignificant investment from you… but despite how it feels, it’s not impossible.
Nailing jello to a tree is impossible; everything else is just really hard.
… ho ho, it is to laugh. ha ha, very funny.
Now there are a number of ways of that you can expand your dating pool, and which you choose is going to depend on what you’re hoping to achieve and — to a certain extent — what your resources are. The first and most obvious answer is, well… move. In fact, this is what a LOT of LGBTQ kids do: they pack up their shit and get the fuck out of Dodge, hightailing it to a more accepting, more cosmopolitan locale, both to find more relationship options and often for their own sanity and safety.
But while it can seem extreme, or even a little absurd to MOVE because you want to find more people to date, it is a legitimate option. A larger population in general means that you have more opportunities overall. Plus, there are times when your options are restricted because of basic population distribution; there are towns and even cities where the ratio of male to female residents is heavily skewed one way or the other. Moving to an area that has more single women or men per capita can make it easier to find a potential partner, just through changing the numbers.
But sometimes moving solves issues that aren’t just tied to the population or demographics. Many times the problem can be one of culture; an observant Jew, Muslim or Mormon, especially one who prefers to marry within the faith is going to have a harder time finding someone in a small town in Oklahoma or Mississippi. Similarly a gay man is going to have more opportunities for finding a relationship in Seattle or Portland than they are in Arkadelphia. A liberal-leaning person may want to move some place where they’re less of an oddity, and plenty of conservative voters have expressed their struggles of trying to date in New York City.
The obvious issue here is that this requires a lot from someone who’s going to want to make that big of a change. It’s not cheap to up stakes and move to another town or city. When I say that you’re going to have to decide just how badly you want it… this is a pretty good example. What are you willing to do in order to make this work? There are options — save up until you can afford to move, see if you can move in with a friend or find roommates. Some folks get lucky — they get scholarships to colleges or find jobs that would help with relocation costs. But regardless, it is going to require effort, determination and sacrifice on your part. You have to decide if the results would be worth it.
For folks who can’t or choose not to move for one reason or another, then you have to look into making compromises and choices about how to expand your potential dating pool.
One option is to examine your choices about who you’re interested in dating or willing to consider as a partner. One of the side-effects of online dating, for example, is that it’s REALLY easy to get so focused on finding EXACTLY what you want that you end up missing out on people who you would have an amazing relationship with, despite the fact that they don’t match everything you feel like you want or need.
Being willing to be flexible or meet people who don’t seem like they’re your perfect match makes it easier for serendipity to happen, where you find someone you never would’ve expected you could click with. On the other hand, the more must-haves and dealbreakers that you have, the more you’re increasing the reasons why you’re still single.
Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not telling you to lower your standards OR your expectations, just to recognize that the more specific or inflexible you are in what you’re looking for in a potential partner, the fewer people you’re going to find who meet those requirements. Being willing to examine your desires and decide if you’re able to accept not getting some things that you’d want as the price of entry for an amazing relationship is important.
If you decide that no, you aren’t wiling to be flexible or you’ve compromised enough, that’s perfectly legit. Just understand that this choice means that you may have a harder time finding a relationship than you’d prefer.
Another option is to embrace the possibility of meeting people who don’t necessarily live in your town and getting used to the idea of a long-distance relationship. This may mean starting to go to events in the next town or two over — especially if you live near a college or university town, where you’re going to find a lot more events and a lot more people. Going to events in those towns in person means you’re much more likely to find people who share your interests… and that makes it that much easier to talk to them.
You may also want to expand your search radius on Tinder or OKCupid; plenty of folks are cool with dating someone who’s a reasonable distance away by car.
And as a complete aside: you may also want to try different apps. Sometimes the problem you’re running into is that the people you’re looking for aren’t on Tinder, they’re on Bumble or Hinge, or even Facebook Dating.
Or they may not be on the dating apps, but they ARE on Final Fantasy 14, World of Warcraft or various Discord servers. Just because more people are meeting online doesn’t mean they’re exclusively meeting on dating apps. Sometimes they’re meeting on Slack or Reddit or the Warren Ellis Forum
That’s why the most important thing you can do is get comfortable with meeting and talking to people in general, wherever you are. If you want to maximize your chances of finding an amazing partner, you’re going to want to be able to talk to folks — even if you’re not trying to pick them up. Sometimes the most innocuous connections can lead to something amazing.
Several folks I know — including people who’s marriages I officiated — met on a comics discussion board.
Another of my friends started a conversation with a lovely young woman at a concert. Both of them were far from home, neither of them had any reason to believe that they’d ever see the other again after that night… and yet they stayed in contact and eventually they got married.
You never know who you might click with and where that may lead. Being open to possibilities, no matter where they may happen, increases the odds that something incredible could happen.
Our next question comes from Meamer — hopefully I’m pronouncing that right: who wants to know what to do when he feels like women are so abundant that he can afford to wait for perfection, and he feels like this is sabotaging his chances of finding a long-term relationship.
So the issue here is that this isn’t about abundance. This is actually FOMO, the fear of missing out. It’s the idea that there is one PERFECT partner — or a very few perfect partners, anyway — and you run the risk of missing them. It’s the fear that you’ll be in a relationship and then discover that this other person is actually perfect for you.
Which on it’s face is kind of like my waiting for Christina Hendricks to be single again…
…what do you mean she got divorced in October?
The problem is that you can apply this logic to pretty much ANYTHING. Meals, jobs, cars, schools… commit to anything and you might find out that there’s another option — might be better, might not, YOU DON’T KNOW.
But can you afford to NOT find out?
This is an actual psychological phenomenon known as the Paradox of Choice: having too many options — or the perception of too many options — can make your brain vapor lock and leave you paralyzed out of fear of picking the “wrong one”.
The thing to realize is that if a relationship makes you feel happy, fulfilled and loved… then you’ve picked the right one. You may not have everything you’d want in it, but NOBODY gets into a relationship without accepting that they aren’t getting 100% of what they want. It’s just that what they ARE getting is so damn good, it’s ok that you’re not getting the rest; it’s part of the price of entry for that relationship and a great relationship means that you’re happy to pay it.
Just as importantly though is that waiting for that “perfect” relationship is a fool’s errand. That supposedly perfect person or relationship is only perfect at a distance; once you’re dating them, you’ll realize that they have their own flaws and things you’ll have to give up to be with THEM in THAT relationship… same as any other.
It’s very much a “grass is greener” situation, and there really isn’t a way around it. Even non-monogamy or polyamory isn’t going to ease that feeling, because you’re still going to have to make compromises and give up things in exchange.
If you’re legitimately unhappy or the relationship you’re in doesn’t meet your needs, then by all means, it’s time to go and find one that does.
But if it does meet your needs and you’re happy? Then focus on what you DO have. Be in the moment and appreciate what you’ve got and express gratitude for it, especially to your partner. I promise you, they don’t hear it nearly often enough.
Just remember, it’s like a wise man once said: there’s a million fine-looking women in the world. But they don’t all bring you lasagna at work.
So that’s going to do it for this episode. Thanks for tuning in. If you’re digging this, let me know in the comments and if you’ve got a question you want answered on here, leave that in the comments as well. Who knows, maybe the question I’ll answer next time will be yours.
And if you need an answer right away or you want a guaranteed answer, check out my private coaching options; the priority email service may be exactly what you need. Links are in the show notes, so go check it out.
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