Dear Dr. NerdLove:
After a few years of non-dating, I (F, mid-30s from Denmark) bumped into this awesome British guy (M, mid-30s) and we just hit it off. It was one of those meetings that lasted 6-7 hours. We shared laughter, life stories, bad jokes, what we do for living (without overdoing it), shared pictures of family members (without going into details) and friends… it seemed effortless as if it was a marathon of several dates in the same time. He was even very honest about a job interview that he was invited to, a job located in London. At the end of the date, he told me that he would get in touch with me after his job interview to set up a new date if I was interested. I thought,”why not?” Nothing was settled in terms of job. And so he did. A week later, he came over for dinner and second date was just as fun and enjoyable. He mentioned about how the interview went, but I found it difficult to have the conversation. Partly because I don’t know him well enough to have an opinion, but of course I want to be supportive. London is fab. I use to live and work in London, so I totally understand him. But a part of me also felt bummed out about the whole situation. How far should we take this when he was leaving.
After the second date, he texted me that he got the job in London. I was happy for him and stayed cool. It was a bittersweet announcement. After a while, I thought why not just be an adult and I told him how I felt about the situation – we had an honest conversation, even though it was on a early stage to have that kind of serious talk. I wouldn’t have initiated it if he was staying, but he was not. That kind of made the decision for him not to get too engaged in that short of time that was left. But if he was staying, it would have been different. He was very emotional about it. So I told him that there was no pressure. If he wanted to see me fantastic, if he wanted to texted me after settling in London, he should feel free to do so. And if not, then I wished him the best of luck and that life would treat him well. I got an unexpectedly positive response to it. I quote “Thank you for your support and honesty. It’s a good quality in someone. I find it so sweet and mature of you. That is why I think you’re good egg. And it is a breath of fresh air” (followed by 3 emojis with heart eyes)
I saw him today just for a short moment. I tried to be neutral and smiley but avoided eye contact. I could see it was difficult for him as well. It was painful to see the sadness in his eyes because it should be an exciting time for him. He asked if we could catch up before him leaving permanently so he could say goodbye properly.
I don’t know what to feel – it has been a rollercoaster of mixed feelings; hope, happiness, sadness, anxiety, stress and that is just me … and I keep telling myself that I should not feel like this way. I understand that he cannot deal with any emotionally attachments when he has lots of things going on (the fact that he is in between two jobs, arrange a safe transaction from one country to another during pandemic, etc.) I want to be priority too, and that will be difficult when he is busy and stressed about moving abroad, the flights are running irregularly, test and isolation, finding a place to stay, etc.
But the selfish part of me wants more at some point. Is it possible? Yes, if both people are dedicated and that they have known each other for a while. I visit London often, both for work and pleasure. And it is even quicker and easier for me to travel to London than crossing Denmark. But we don’t know each other that well….
I don’t want to seem needy, or annoy the guy who is emotional at the moment even though he asked me to come visit, twice (it’s difficult to tell if the British mean this or just being polite). He has spend most of his adult life in DK, now he is going back home to built a new life and identity. Being supportive by giving space and stay incommunicado
Everything about him seems honest and decent. He keeps promises, and you can tell a lot about a person over texting (full sentences, long messages with emojis, being honest about his feelings, sharing great news like a new job) He said the same to me and wondered why we haven’t met earlier though we live quite close based on the good vibe and chemistry we had.
I don’t know if it’s just because I haven’t been dating in a long time, or I get attached to quickly, have I misunderstood something because it is too good to be true… but I would love someone from the outside to give a qualified opinion.
We both want to settle (yeah, before he was offered a job). He has been married before and he’d gotten divorced three years ago. Currently we live in Copenhagen, not too far away from each other. He has less then a month left in DK. He had been in a long distance relationship with someone in London. But it didn’t work out due to Covid. So he has had his share of bad relationships too. Honestly I don’t care about demography and geography if you share the same values and mindset.
International Love Affair
So there’re a couple different implied questions here, ILA. Let’s start with the sudden intensity of this connection: is this a good thing, or something to be worried about?
The answer is… both, really. Helpful, I know, but stick with me here. The initial strength of your connection isn’t really an indication of much, good or bad; it just means that you and your snugglebunny have strong initial chemistry. On the one hand, that makes things really exciting and feels amazing. You’re both really drawn to one another, you find their presence intoxicating (literally — that New Relationship Energy is all about the sudden dump of oxytocin and dopamine to the brain) and you want to spend more time together. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s fun, you frequently end up having a lot of great sex and hopefully equally great conversations and time spent together. At the same time however, it’s really easy to mistake the initial rush for the strength of the connection or your long-term compatibility. While you two may have more heat than Texas in August, you don’t know anything about each other, certainly nothing substantive. Yeah, you had that great all-day date where you talked about everything and anything, but that’s still very much all surface. You and he are both on your best, most polished behavior, showing only your best selves to each other. Plus, again, you’re both quite literally getting high from each other, which means you’re both in the stage where everything is cute and adorable, from the way you chew your food to the way his nose whistles when he breathes.
But this period always fades, because humans are great at adapting to anything. No matter how amazing or hot the first six months to a year may be, the NRE always starts to ebb, our brains don’t make as much dopamine and oxytocin as they did at first, and we all discover that NRE can cover up a LOT of sins. The things we thought were adorable and endearing at the start can quickly become the thing that makes us grind our teeth into powder once we’re no longer fuckdrunk. But that’s also where the deeper, more meaningful connections become a big part of what keep a relationship together… and the lack thereof can drive things apart.
So my overall philosophy when it comes to intense attraction early on is: enjoy the hell out of it. Bang out on any flat surface that’ll support your weight, have lots of great conversations and amazing day-long dates. But at the same time, do your best to keep a level head and a sense of perspective so that you don’t end up overinvesting in a relationship before you know whether that’s a relationship worth investing in for the long-term. Maybe it will be, maybe it won’t be. However, resisting the temptation to go all-in before you really know each other means that you don’t end up with an ending that’s as passionate and dramatic as the beginning… and not in a fun way.
Which leads to the other question: where do the two of you go from here? Well, that part gets tricky. The fact that he’s about to move to a new country, which means that you can either accept that this is a relationship with a definitive end date, or you can give a long-distance relationship a shot. Both have their pros and cons. I think that we as a culture tend to overvalue long-term relationships, to the point that we tend to think that relationships that don’t last for years or decades are less valuable or desirable than others — often to the point that we tend to think that a relationship that doesn’t end with one or both partners dying in the saddle as a failure. I think that short term relationships, even relationships that only last a few months, can be rewarding, enriching and worth having; the fact that it didn’t last a lifetime doesn’t make worth less. But they can also be hard to accept and the ending can be rough, even when you know it’s coming.
Long distance relationships, on the other hand, are dating on hard mode under the best of circumstances. Long distance relationships where you’re in separate countries add another level of difficulty on top of that. LDRs are the most successful when its possible for the couples to see each other as often as possible, and when there’s an end date to the “distance” aspect. And to be fair: international long-distance relationships in Europe mean that you don’t face the same difficulties you might face if one of you lived in, say, the US or Canada.
But right now, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and your erstwhile beau is about to move to a country that seems determined to challenge the Trump administration for the title of Most Fucked Up Response to COVID. That alone makes it much harder to not just travel to see each other, but also to do much of anything, safely, if and when you do.
They’re also in the middle of dealing with the totally-foreseeable consequences of Brexit, causing any number of SNAFUs for European citizens in the UK, UK citizens living abroad and of course, the people who love them. That means that your LDR may well have unlocked Nightmare Mode; the challenges of international travel and the upheaval from Brexit make it that much harder to see each other in person.
Now does that mean that you should accept this as being a short-term relationship with a definitive end-date and/or a near-miss, confounded by fate instead of trying to do the LDR thing? Not necessarily. It ultimately comes down to how much bullshit and inconvenience you’re both willing to put up with for this relationship. And it will likely be a LOT of bullshit. But you and he are the only ones who can decide for yourselves whether that’s something you’re willing to try to endure for the sake of this (again, VERY NEW) connection that you have.
There is, of course, a third option: you split the difference. Enjoy yourselves while he’s still in country, then let him go when it’s time to move to London — accepting that you and he have no expectations of one another after he moves. Then, after he’s had time to get settled, go visit. See how it goes, both in terms of travel and entering the country but also the time you spend together. Give that a couple of tries over the course of a few months and see where you both are. If the connection is still strong — strong enough to make dealing with the inconveniences of an LDR during the time of COVID worth the hassle — then by all means, give the LDR a shot. If it’s not… well, at the very least, you and he can both take comfort in the knowledge that you gave it your all, rather than wondering about what might-have-been.
It’s just a question of weighing the benefits against the costs and deciding whether it’s worth it for the both of you to try.
Hello Dr. NerdLove,
I have been a fan of yours for awhile. The topic that you cover about dealing with rejection and how to enjoy being single (even when you don’t want to be), has helped me a great deal these past few weeks.
Let me give you some background information before I ask my question. I am a 27 year old cis-gendered male, who recently asked out a girl and got rejected. She gave the “let’s be friends” speech. She also used to be my co-worker before she started to pursue a masters. I will say the one silver-lining is I believe she was 100% genuine about being friends, because she has said on a few occasions that she wants to keep in touch with me after leaving the company.
I have developed pretty strong unrequited feelings for her, because I was able to connect with her so deeply emotionally. I felt that not only did we have a lot in common, but we were also compatible, had similar values and were very supportive of one another at work. Plus COVID-19 gave her and I a lot of time to spend together getting to know each other for the past few months. I will mention that, twice she brought up that she had a lot on her plate with life, and wasn’t looking to pursue a relationship right now, so I probably should have saw the rejection coming a mile away when I asked her out on a date.
Cut to now. I legitimately want to remain friends with her, so I invited her to virtual trivia with my friend group. She accepted the invitation and is happy to still hangout with me. I still harbor feelings for her and would be lying if I wasn’t hoping she may change her mind down the road. However, I am not going to wait for that to be the case, so I am trying to set up an online dating profile for the first time in my life. I’m hoping that connecting with other women, even when I still can’t be with them physically because of the pandemic, will help me feel attractive again to women I’m attracted to. Also, it would be nice to have someone I could date and develop a close relationship with that I can see after COVID-19 is less of an issue.
So my question is: how do you set up a successful dating profile when you don’t have really any current selfies, or photos of you hanging out with friends or doing activities you enjoy?
I literally joined Facebook and Instagram 2 weeks ago at 27(never had any social media before then), and never was in the habit of taking photos of my life and adventures. Also, with the pandemic I’m kind of limited in things I can do in my city, and cool selfies I could take outside my apartment to fix this issue.
Any online dating photo hacks or advice are greatly appreciated.
All Hail The Instagram Filter
So I’m not going to get too deep into the fact that being “friends” with someone in the hopes that you’ll change their mind is a bad idea, AHIF; if you’ve been reading this column for a while, you already know that.
Instead, let’s focus on getting you up and running on some dating apps, so that you don’t put all your hopes on watering a (potentially) dead plant.
Here’s the thing about photos on dating apps, AHIF: people — mostly men, but women too — misunderstand the point of them. A lot of men tend to assume that the photos on dating apps are about showing off their so-called “sexual market value”; that is, trying to hit as many potential attraction switches as possible. That may mean showing off your physique, your fancy car, the “cool” things you’ve done… basically, trying to stack as many bonuses and display them like the tail of a peacock. This is how you inevitably end up with dudes with Tinder profiles where you could swap pictures of them out for pictures of an absurdly jacked kangaroo and never notice the difference.
(That’s also, incidentally, why I get letters from dudes ranting about how superficial and shallow women are on dating apps and how “even 5s think they’re 10s”.)
In reality, photos on dating apps are there to do two things.
First: to capture your potential match’s attention.
Your goal isn’t to impress women; your goal is to make it easier for the women who want what you have to offer to find you in the first place. Online dating isn’t about finding as many matches as possible, it’s about matching with the right people, the people who are looking for a guy just like you. If you focus on trying to be the hottest thing out there, you may or may not get more matches… but those are going to be weak matches at best, with people you aren’t compatible with. As the saying goes: you don’t want to be everyone’s cup of tea, you want to be a select group’s shot of whiskey. That’s why your photos are a visual shorthand to who you are as a person and what life with you would be like. You want to show yourself off to best effect and show who you are at a glance.
Now you, like a lot of guys, may not have many photos of yourself. That’s not unusual; culturally, guys are often taught that “selfies” are for girls, and shallow, self-involved girls at that. But not only is that bullshit, it also puts men at a disadvantage. Part of the reason why women tend to take better pictures in general and better dating app photos in particular is because they take a lot of selfies. Having lots of photos of yourself, especially when you’re the one in control of the camera, means that you not only get more comfortable with having photos taken, it means you get better at looking good in photos. And yes, that’s very much a skill that you develop with practice. A lot of looking good in photos is about understanding your angles. Bodies and faces tend to be asymmetric to one degree or another; knowing how to pose yourself in front of a camera makes it easier to present yourself in a way that minimizes those asymmetries. This is why, for example, Shannen Doherty was famous for her “head tilt” pose, or for keeping her hair over one eye. It’s also why “getting your good side” is a very real thing, not just something shallow and vapid people say.
Similarly, taking lots of photos teaches you the value of lighting very quickly. Overhead lighting, for example, is your enemy; it deepens lines and shadows, makes your eyes look sunken and serves to make everything look warped. Fluorescent lighting will make your skin look sallow and cause every single flaw, blemish, zit and oversized pore stand out like a crow in a snow bank. Backlighting makes it impossible to see you at all. The best lighting is indirect sunlight; this tends to give a softer effect that makes everyone look good.
When you understand your angles and lighting, half the job is done for you. The rest is just staging and framing.
In non-COVID times, one of the things I would suggest is talking to a professional photographer; there are many, many photographers who specialize in taking photos for social media and dating apps in particular, especially with photos that look like candids. But that’s a little difficult to do at a time when masking and social distancing is vital.
Fortunately, there are workarounds. If you have a smartphone, you can take some very good photos that will work perfectly for dating apps. In fact, with a tripod or stand and a bluetooth trigger, you can take selfies that don’t look like selfies. And the portrait mode on your smartphone will let you take photos with a low depth of field, keeping you in focus while blurring the background, making your pictures pop and give that professional look that makes photos stand out.
As a general rule, you want about four or five photos for your profile.
Your main profile photo should be your very best picture of you from the shoulders up, using the portrait mode on your camera. You want the camera to be slightly above your eye-line, not below; shooting from a low angle distorts you in unattractive ways. I can’t count the number of “selfie from waist height” I’ve seen in dudes’ dating profiles; nobody looks good like that. Be sure that you aren’t wearing a hat or sunglasses, or anything else that obscures your face. Women want to see what you look like, and those not only get in the way, but they make you look like every reactionary asshat profile photo on Twitter.
Your second photo should show more of you — say, from the waist up. Again: use the portrait mode to get that great soft-focus that makes you pop off the background.
In both of these, you should be dressed well, ideally in clothes that you might actually wear on your date.
The others should demonstrate who you are and what you enjoy and give a hint of your personality. If there are things that are important enough to you that you mention them in your profile, try to make a point of having a photo that includes them; it’s a sort of dating-app show-don’t-tell. Right now you may not be able to have photos of you and friends, but you can still have photos of being out and about, especially if you use a tripod or stand. Tell stories in miniature with those photos. If you look at some celebrities’ photos on IG, notice how the framing, location and pose all convey a particular mood and message. The more you can grasp that, the easier it is to show people who you are through photos.
Also: smile. Yes, I know there was that one post on OKCupid’s blog about how women don’t respond to pictures of dudes smiling. It’s bullshit and it’s stupid; women respond better to warmth and friendliness than your best “I am the Night” blue steel. If you don’t look like you’re having fun, in at least a couple photos, you’re going to end up turning folks off.
Don’t worry too much about having tons of photos with friends right now. It’s the middle of the COVID pandemic; everyone understands that we’re all staying home and staying safe (and the ones who aren’t are demonstrating that they make shitty choices). Putting your best face forward is more important than a dozen action shots. Plus: you can always take more pictures down the line. In fact, that’s a smart thing to do. Changing up your pictures not only means that your photos are fresh and demonstrative of who you are, but it keeps you active on the site. That, in turn, helps goose you in the algorithm and puts your pictures in front of more people.