I have a problem and I feel very stupid asking this but… the girl I’m currently dating use to date a bodybuilder and, well, I’m not muscular. That alone triggers my alarms; why would a girl who dated a guy with perfect body want to date me? I can not offer her a good body, I don’t even have abs! So is she trying to date a “low value” man like me out of pity ? I don’t have money, I don’t have status, I’m average. I enjoy reading about history and nerd things, I don’t feel I belong in her category. I mean yeah, I met her because of OKCupid and I sent her a message and after a pleasant talk we arranged a date but I thought that I was in her radar because she saw me attractive but I don’t thing that’s the case now.
Sorry for my broken English, it is not my mother language.
A Sad Man
You’re a little unclear about the exact timeline here, so I’m not sure if you’ve been on one date with her or if this is an ongoing thing. To be sure, trying to communicate complex and difficult feelings in a second language (and you’re doing far better than I could), so let’s assume that this is an ongoing relationship for the purposes of this.
Sounds like you think you’re dating someone out of your league, ASM, so allow me to let you in on a little secret: there are no “leagues”. There are just people who like you and want to date you and people who don’t like you or don’t want to date you. That’s it. If someone likes you and wants to date you then hey, presto: you’re in their “league”, end of discussion.
The problem you’re having isn’t that you don’t seem to be able to accept that she could like you and… well, honestly, that’s going to be a far, far bigger problem than not being Mr. Olympia 2022. There are few ways to blow up a perfectly good and fulfilling relationship by constantly calling your partner a liar every time they tell you or show you that they like you. This is what we in the dating advice biz call “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”; you’re taking a good thing and tossing it aside because you seem to be unable to accept what someone’s telling you through her words and her actions.
Let’s start with another secret about women: women don’t date bodies, they date people. Now to be sure: people are attracted to various body types. But nobody – and I mean nobody – has a relationship with someone purely for their body. Folks can be hot or hunky and that’s definitely got its appeal, but without substance to go with that surface, the appeal of bodies alone fades much faster than you’d realize. Plenty of women can tell you about guys who are generally regarded as being objectively hot but who have all the personality of a sack of wet mice or other qualities that render them utterly unfuckable.
There’s also the fact that there’re body types that, culturally, are portrayed as and seen as being “in fashion” or are quite literally marketed as being “in demand”, but those vary and change over time. In the 70s, being hirsuite was a sign of virile masculinity and the male aesthetic leaned heavily into chest and body hair – witness Burt Reynolds on the bearskin rug. In the 90s, body hair was out; the freshly waxed look was in. The muscularity of bodies varied widely as well. If you look at, say, drool-worthy photoshoots of cinema hearthrobs like Antonio Banderas in the 90s, you saw dudes who were reasonably fit and who spent some time in the gym, but not Arnold-sized body builders or “made out of strips of bacon” striation Hugh Jackman. In the 00’s, you saw a lot of love and lust for men who fit more of the “twink” look – tall, hairless and skinny, whereas now, the look being pitched at dudes is more “too much HGH, too little body fat and utterly dehydrated” muscle of Marvel superheroes.
But if you start looking to who people are actually into – not who people talk about online but who they actually date and have long and happy relationships with – you’regoing to see a much wider variety of body types. When women talk about liking dudes with so-called “dad bods”, they’re not doing so for Clout Points because they want to not be seen as shallow, it’s because that’s what they’re legitimately into. Yeah there’re folks who like how Henry Caville grimes up real nice in The Witcher, or Michael B. Jordan’s something-made-of-iron physique in the Creed movies, but there’re just as many women who want to lick frosting off of Paul Hollywood or think that Kristen Bruun is exactly their flavor of yummy.
It’s also worth noting that dating body builders specifically is challenging. Someone who’s trying to look like The Rock full time is going to be devoting a majority of their time to their build, their diet and their workouts; that’s going to put some pretty heavy restrictions on where and how they go on dates. It’s hard to plan a romantic dinner when your partner needs to eat a set amount of calories and nutrients (high protein, low fat, low carb) at very specific intervals every day when they’re in the bulk phase and highly calorically restricted diets when they’re on the cutting phase. Read some “I tried to get a Marvel Chris body” articles and see just how much trying to achieve and maintain that look takes over every aspect of your life and becomes what you have to structure your entire schedule around. It’s fucking exhausting for the person doing it… imagine trying to date someone doing this.
But here’s another secret about women and body types: they tend to like a variety of bodies… just like men do. Yeah, someone may like a barrel chested dude who looks like he’s chisled out of marble and abs, but they also like and date dudes who’re built like hobbits because Samwise Gamgee is decidedly husband material. Dating someone with one type of build or physique doesn’t mean that they’re now locked out of ever being into someone with a different body type because hey, turns out women, like men, contain multitudes.
While we’re at it, here’s another case of stating the obvious: women don’t date people out of pity. They especially don’t have relationships with folks out of pity. Trust me: you’re not some lost puppy that she’s trying to rescue, nor are you a charity case that she’s taken on in order to, I dunno, clear up some negative karma or something. If she’s dating you, it’s because she wants to date you. If you’ve had more than one date – and it sounds like you have – then it’s not like she showed up expecting someone else and continued the date to be polite. She know who you are, what you look like and so forth and wanted to see you again.
Here’s the thing: what’s really hanging you up here is that you’re seeing this, not just in terms of “high value” vs. “low value” but without real regard for what she values. You’re taking incel ideas of what women want as gospel instead of considering that maybe she doesn’t see six-pack abs or a prestigious job as being particularly valuable. She might – and stick with me here – be dating you because hey she values what you have. You may not be “high value” in terms of the supposed Six Sixes people insist women want (six feet tall or taller, six-pack abs, six-figure income, six hundred horsepower car, six inch or bigger penis and six months out from the last relationship) but there’s a wide difference between what women want in a boyfriend and what men think women want.
So maybe, just maybe, you should consider that she’s into you for you and you should just take “yes” for an answer here.
But hey, I’ve said this to others before, and I’ll say it here: have you considered that what you’re doing is accusing your girlfriend of being terminally shallow? You, I presume, don’t just date women for their looks; you need substance, not just surface. Surface is lovely, but substance is what makes you stay. Why would you not give that same sort of benefit of the doubt to someone you’re dating? Why are you so quick to assume that women not only are so looks-focused that the only reason why someone would be dating you would be pity? Is she truly no deeper than a mud puddle on a hot day? Or is it that you’ve spent way the fuck too much time on shitty subreddits and not enough time getting outside so you can touch grass?
Your girlfriend is dating you because you’re you, ASM. But if you can’t let yourself accept that fact and take “yes” for an answer… that may not be true for long. And if that happens, it’s not because you were “too low value”, it’ll be because you had a good thing going and pushed it away.
The sooner you let yourself actually trust and believe your girlfriend, the happier you’ll be and the more successful your relationship will be. Don’t let a good thing slip away because other people fed you a line of shit about women.
Dear Dr. NerdLove:
In 2012-ish I was dating my first serious boyfriend. We were talking marriage, future, the whole thing. In retrospect there were A LOT of red flags that I ignored because it was my first real relationship and I didn’t want to listen to other people because I was just so in love with him. We had been together about a year and a half. He’d met my entire extended family. He told me he had a previous fiance and a child who died in a car accident. I was on my way home from college for the summer and I get a text from him. Oops wait… not him, his fiance of 3 fricking years. Not dead and no children either. He lied to me about pretty much everything except his name. I told the fiance that if he kept me on the hook for that long, there were probably others. She said he had photo albums with pictures of naked women who weren’t her. I tried to convince her to leave him as well, but they ended up getting married a few years later. Anyway, I dumped the douche canoe the next day and didn’t look back. There’s a lot more traumatizing details and events that would take too long to explain here. Long story short, this dude ruined me for a while.
Anyway, flash forward to 2022. I’m happily married. We’ve just had our second child. Who pops up in an unsolicited DM? His friggin’ wife. She’s on some rampage trying to get me to write a character statement for a judge or something about what a piece of shit he was 10 years ago. I don’t know how she found my private profile or even knew my married name. I shut her down, block her, and think it was weird but over. No. Then Douche Canoe himself messages me separately and apologizes for her behavior. He bombards me with messages about how they are splitting up and he’s fresh out of his 4th stay in the mental health ward. He tells me how sorry he is and that he really screwed up by lying to the wrong girl blah blah blah. I still, and will continue, to hate him for what he did to me.
The problem is, hearing from him has reopened old wounds all over again. I feel like I am finding all this out for the first time. My husband is understanding of my moods and is supporting me as best as he can. He told me he understands and that I’m allowed to feel hurt and confused.
I feel guilty for even being affected by the whole thing since I thought I had those feelings dead and buried long ago. What can I do to stop reopening old wounds? Why does it still hurt so much? Will I ever be completely rid of him? I feel like a failure as a wife and mother for having these strong, unexpected emotional ties to someone who I don’t even want to be downwind of again.
The Past Isn’t Even Past
This is fairly easy, TPIEP: you didn’t reopen old wounds, they did.
But let’s jump back for a second: this dude hurt you. He told you absurd fucking lies that made him seem deep and significant and carrying wounds, in no small part so that you would feel like you were part of a grand romantic narrative… but mostly because it made him seem special. This was equal parts to get you, but also to bolster up his own ego. You believed him because honestly who the actual fuck lies about these things? Well, as we’ve seen from shows like Bad Vegan and The Tinder Swindler… lots of toxic, manipulative assholes.
It’s bad enough that he was a liar and a cheat, but the fact that you believed his lies? That’s what makes it hurt even worse. The fact that you were taken in by him is like the kiss of eau de fuck you, the squeeze of fresh lemon juice on the open wound that was finding out that he was a shitty, lying, cheating bag of prolapsed rectums. It hurts so much more because it strikes you straight to your core; how could you have been so naive, so trusting, so whatever that he was able to mislead you like this? Well, not because you were stupid or too trusting or too whatever, but because he was a skilled manipulator. That’s not on you, that’s entirely on him.
So there he is, exposed as the liar and cheat he is. After a year and a half of being with this guy, you’re learning that nothing that you believed about him was true. The guy you thought you were dating never existed and it turns out that you never knew who he was at all. Yeah I’m absolutely not surprised how much this fucked you up. You had your sense of reality turned upside down and given a shake and oh look a talking turd fell out. That’s going to screw with anyone.
But you recovered from this. You lived, you learned, you didn’t let this put a callous on your soul and you were able to trust and find someone so much better. Now here you are, a decade later, with a much better relationship and a much better life, happily relegating him to the garbage dump of Shitty Boyfriends Past and having done what I imagine was a significant amount of work to heal the damage he did. And lo and behold, his wife comes screaming out of the clear blue sky again and tries to drag you into her bullshit and drama. So now the past is no longer prologue, nor is it even past any more; it’s very much the present and it’s stinking up your inbox like The Worst Toilet in Scotland. And I want to stress: this isn’t your mess to deal with, it’s his wife trying to push you back into this because you had the misfortune of believing a lying liar who tells lies when you were younger and less experienced.
Yeah, that’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna hurt, not just because it’s a reminder of an awful experience you’ve tried to move on from, but because his wife isn’t seeing you like a person. She sees you as a hammer that she can use to sack-tap her husband during the divorce. How fucking insulting is that? To go to one of his victims and try to drag them back into her drama with no regard for your healing or well-being.
But in case that wasn’t enough, apparently it was two-for-one day at the self-centered-asshole store because here he comes, a decade later and he doesn’t even have the dignity to be wearing a top hat and tails because while the notes may have changed, he’s trying to give you the same ol’ song and dance. So not only are they both opening old wounds like you’re stuck with scurvy on The Terror, but he’s got the fucking audacity to think that you might buy his bullshit again? That ten years on, after he betrayed you in such a deep and fundamental way, thinking that you would ever want to hear from him again?
(Fun fact: while “making amends to the ones you harmed” may be a key part of various 12-step programs, the critical part folks often leave out is “unless attempting to do so will cause more harm.” Which is precisely what this dude is doing.)
So yeah, I’m not surprised that you’re feeling like this is a flashback to the trauma from the first time this happened. That’s exactly what this is. It’s the toxic relationship equivalent of The Matrix Resurrections, except instead of being an exploration and continuation of themes from a complex cyberpunk movie, it’s a couple of assholes hauling you back into their bullshit and demonstrating that for them not a damn thing has changed. Second verse, same as the first, a whole lot louder and a whole lot worse.
And if I may: I want to applaud your husband, because he’s exactly right: you absolutely are allowed to be hurt and confused and also fucking angry about this.
What you shouldn’t do is blame yourself. Not for having fallen for his bullshit, not for being hurt again or having deeply unpleasant feelings about all of this. None of this – literally none – is your fault. You didn’t seek them out. You didn’t ask for this. This was something they did to you. The fact that this hurts doesn’t mean that you’re a failure as a wife and mother, it hurts because they hurt you. If someone breaks your nose, then, after it’s healed, punches you in the nose again, you’re not a failure for being in pain. You didn’t fail to, I dunno, turn off your nerve endings or something.
This is the quentissential “this is a them problem, not a you problem.” You didn’t reopen old wounds. They did. You’re (rightfully) hurt, confused and upset by this because you got suckerpunched straight in an old emotional wound. You have done nothing to feel guilty about. I’m sorry that you’ve had to go through this, twice, but you need to remember: it’s not your fault. It’s theirs. Tattoo this backwards on your forehead so you can see it when you wash your face. Shave your head if you need the room: this is not your fault. It’s theirs.
Cut them out of your life like you’re excising a tumor. Block them on every possible way that they can get ahold of you, set up filters to send their shit straight to spam folders or the trash where you never have to see it. If he continues to try to get around your blocks and filters, consider talking to a lawyer about some form of a no-contact order. It may be a hard lift to achieve, but having a judge say “shut the fuck up and go away” may be the open-palm slap across the mouth that tells them to never so much as blink in your general direction, never mind message you again.
This is not your fault. It’s theirs.
All will be well.