Dear Dr. NerdLove,
This is a pretty minor problem compared to a lot of the ones that you deal with, but I’ve really valued your advice over the years, so I thought I’d send it in anyway.
I was very nervous and awkward as a teenager, but I have spent the last decade working actively on my social skills. I’m proud of how far I’ve come! I’ll always be a bit dorky, but I am able to have conversations with a wide range of people. I have an upbeat personality and really like getting to know people, but I am also a bit over accommodating.
This leads to a dating problem—I feel like I lead guys on. When I’m on a date I tend to smooth over any conversational rough spots, get enthusiastic about their interests, and actively listen to the things they want to rant about. If someone isn’t engaging with me and I have to carry the entire conversation, I can and will do that. I can tell that a lot of guys leave our dates feeling like they’ve really connected, only to be completely blindsided when I reject them. I feel like I’m the woman on the other side of every story about how “I thought it was going so well, I just don’t know what happened.” Rejection hurts, and it especially hurts when you didn’t see it coming. I’m sure all women experience this to some extent, but my I-Don’t-Want-To-Date-You conversations can get super messy and make me feel like the bad guy.
I’m not trying especially hard on dates and never promise anything–it’s my default conversational style that’s the issue. I really want people to have a good time, and don’t know how to do “lukewarm.” To a lesser extent this is also a problem in my friendships, as it’s become a pattern that other people get much more invested in me than I do in them. I think sometimes by trying to be nice in the short term I end up hurting people in the long term, and I feel awful about that.
Do you have any advice on dialing it back? Should I learn to let awkward silences hang and invest in a resting bitch face? I know that there’s got to be middle ground between “what I’m doing now” and “actively being mean” but for some reason I’m finding it hard to navigate. Or should I just accept that part of life is sometimes accidentally hurting the almost stranger that you are eating a giant plate of tacos with? I don’t want to close myself off to other people.
Thank you for your time!
Feeling Rotten About Unrequited Desires