Ask Dr. Nerdlove: When A ‘Nice Guy’ Won’t Leave You Alone

Ask Dr. Nerdlove: When A ‘Nice Guy’ Won’t Leave You Alone

What’s going on, everyone? Welcome to the latest instalment of Ask Dr. NerdLove, the greatest nerd love-advice column ever conceived by man.

Before we get started, a self-serving plug: If you’re in Houston on the 27th of February, I’m going to be giving a Nerd Nite talk on how to hack dating and turn being a geek into your advantage. (I gave a similar talk in Austin last night.) Come check it out!

And now, your letters, which this week cover Nice Guys, break-ups, and Valentine’s Day tips.

Hey Doc!

I’m a woman, and I recently re-entered the dating scene after being single for a year. I’m having Nice Guy issues already and am not sure how to deal with them.

My issue is that when I go to events to meet new people, I frequently get stuck in a conversation with a Nice Guy. I’ll start off talking to a group of people, and then the Nice Guy and I will sidebar briefly about something but when I try to rejoin the group conversation, the Nice Guy will continue to pull me back into a conversation with just him. I can feel his resentment when I try to talk to others or expand the conversation to include more people. Even better, the Nice Guy will hang around me all night, wait until I leave and then leave with me.

I like talking to groups and getting to know people but I hate having my whole night monopolized by one person who I’m not attracted to, but I’m not sure how to gracefully exit not only the enforced one-on-one conversation but also the obligatory chaperoning afterwards. Additionally, I’ve had Nice Guys tracking me down on Facebook and Meetup, using the group tools because they “just want to chat”.

Usually I would just slip an imaginary boyfriend into the conversation but these guys can see my activity on our Facebook and Meetup groups, and we attend the same singles events, they know that’s not true.

So, my question is: is there a way for me to confront Nice Guys right off the bat that lets them know that I’m not interested without sounding like a total bitch? It’s awkward to try to let them know I’m not interested when they never really ask me out but when I don’t, they repeatedly try to monopolize my time at events, making it awkward and frankly annoying for me. I’ve started not going to things when I know certain people will be there.

– Ain’t Got Time For That

Oh man. There’s nothing quite as obnoxious as a Nice GuyTM (as opposed to a good guy) who not only pointedly doesn’t get the hint, but is also being careful not to actually make a move.

After all, as long as he doesn’t actually put himself in a position where you can reject him, he’s Schrödinger’s Boyfriend; until the waveform collapses by him actually getting rejected, you exist in a state where you are and aren’t into him at the same time. Plus, by never outright stating that they’re interested in you, these kinds of guys are making sure you can’t ever actually acknowledge their attraction. It’s a trap — if you do acknowledge it, then they’re free to accuse you of being a self-absorbed bitch who thinks the world is in love with her. So unless you’re willing to break the social contract, they have cornered you into playing along.

What these Nice GuysTM are trying to do is use proximity to make you realise you love them. It’s the Platonic Friend Backdoor Gambit (aka: the Duckie), equal parts cockblocking and Stockholm Syndrome. The theory that the more they’re around you, the more likely that you will start to realise how amazing they are. The more that happens, the more opportunities they have to collect Friend Coupons, and when they have enough, the thinking goes, they can trade those in for a relationship upgrade to Sex. Plus, by monopolizing your time, they’re also making sure you don’t have a chance to be with someone else (i.e. anyone else) that you might like better.

Also: Hanging around and forcing their way into leaving with you? Holy hopping sheep-shit that’s creepy. Whether they’re intending to or not, that’s coming off as, “Hey, let me wait around until I can get you alone”; no matter how good their intentions may be, that’s some seriously predatory behaviour right there.

So here’s what you do. To start with: Don’t lie about having a boyfriend. That’s not a great approach for a few reasons. First, you don’t need to justify why you don’t want them hogging your attention or your lack of interest. “I don’t want to talk to you” is really the only reason you need. Second, if they find out it’s not true, they’ll try to leverage it against you. And third, some guys will take this as “but if I were single…” and settle in to wait the other guy out.

Ask Dr. Nerdlove: When A ‘Nice Guy’ Won’t Leave You Alone

Remember: You have have a right to your boundaries and you’re not obligated to sacrifice them to spare some dude’s feelings, especially when he’s being a jerk about it.

One of the easiest ways to firmly disengage from a conversation with someone is to say “Hey, nice talking to you, but I see someone over there I’ve got to talk to,” and walk off. Most people will take that as an actual dismissal and not an invitation to follow you over, or to hover at the edges of your next conversation and pull you back in. When a Nice GuyTM is trying to forcefully re-engage you at get-togethers, use body language against him. When you’re in a group and he’s trying to work it so that he has you to himself, back-turn him. By positioning yourself in such a way that he’s outside the group, he is suddenly the one who’s being rude by trying to impose himself on you when he’s not welcome. If he persists, look at him over your shoulder and say “Excuse me, I’m talking with my friends here.” Make it clear that he’s being inconsiderate and you don’t appreciate his trying to hog your time.

Next: Set your social network settings to private. There’s no point in giving him access to your life. You’re not obligated to let everyone know your business, up to and including whether or not you’re single, nor do you have to give him have another way to try to reach you.

Finally: Be willing to just straight up tell the guy to back the hell off. You don’t have to call him out on his interest in you, just make it clear that you don’t appreciate his hovering around you and you find it uncomfortable. Use those words: “Look, you’re making me uncomfortable, and I want you to leave me alone.” Don’t justify it or get into a debate. You don’t have to be reasonable; if you don’t want him hanging around – or following you when you leave, holy crap – then that’s your right. His desire to be your boyfriend doesn’t trump your right to be left alone. He doesn’t get veto power over your decisions if you don’t have a good enough reason. “Because I said so” is all the justification you need.

Good luck!

Hey, Dr. NerdLove, english isn’t my first language, so I apologise for any mistakes.

Here’s my question: I had girlfriend, broke up with her yesterday. It was a hard situation where she was only thinking about herself and it was getting really hard to deal with that in the relationship. We talked, I asked her to change because I knew she liked me, she cared about me, but needed to change her ways if we wanted the relationship to grow. But she answered me that it wasn’t possible, that that’s the way she is. We broke up, but in excellent terms. I told her that I think that kind of attitude is only going to affect her and that I really hope she works in changing. She agreed with me, she acknowledged that she had problems. I felt well, thinking that at least of this breakup something would survive.

Doc, I told her to change because I really really love her. I mean if I didn’t care about her or the relationship for that matter, instead of talking with her I would’ve broken up without even thinking of the possibility of changing things.

But today I see her (she works at my office and I see her at daily basis) and find that she’s already planning her next trip and going away. That makes me feel like she really didn’t care or even understood what I told her yesterday. I really don’t hope we come back together, but I would really like like to give her a wake up call, letting her know she’s already making the same mistake. What do you think I should do?

Feeling Left Behind

Look, FLB, if she’s selfish and self-absorbed and doesn’t feel the need to address it when her behaviour is affecting her relationship, then it’s better that the two of you broke up. Relationships are two-way streets and if she’s all take and no give, then the best course of action is to not be with her in the first place.

That being said, from the way you describe things, it sounds more like you made a demand rather than explaining that the way she was acting was upsetting you. Even if you genuinely care about someone, giving them demands is going to immediately set them on the defensive. Nobody likes being told they’re the bad guy and being issued ultimatums, even if what you’re saying is 100% true. Having a conversation where you explain how you feel is more effective; it puts the emphasis on the behaviour rather than on the person and doesn’t leave them feeling like they’re being accused of being a horrible person. Plus, hopefully they’re the sort of person who actually cares about how they make their partner feel. If not… well, once again, you’re well rid of them.

Regardless: What’s done is done. You’re broken up. She clearly didn’t feel the need to address the things you talked about leading up to the break-up, so she isn’t going to change her mind now. There’s nothing for you to do here. Giving her a “wake-up call” is as much about your ego – wanting to prove that you were right and wanting to make her care about your opinion – as it is about whether or not she’s making a mistake. It’s not going to make a difference. She’s already made her choice.

Break-ups suck, man, I know. But the best thing you can do is accept it and let her go.

Hi Doc,

I have a question as I prepare for Valentine’s Day. My wife and I have been married for nearly 8 years, and we have 2 great kids together. Recently, my wife has been concerned about her weight and appearance. I think she looks great, especially for a mother of 2, and have told her so. What can I do to help convince her that to me, she is still the most beautiful woman I have ever met? She does not go for traditional gifts as she sees them as a waste of money. This year, I really want to let her know just how I feel.


V-day Veteran

I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. It’s literally a made-up holiday; not only is there not an actual Saint Valentine, but the story of his marrying Roman slaves is just a sexed up conflation of several Catholic martyrs in an attempt to take over a Roman fertility ritual, which was all about werewolves, fucking and flogging virgins covered in goat’s blood. Add that to a 19th century marketing blitz by printers and lace-makers (not kidding) and you get the Holy Day Of Lover’s Obligation.

But you didn’t ask to hear my opinions on Valentine’s Day, you wanted to know how to make your wife feel beautiful and desired.

Here’s the great thing about being a geek: We’ve got licence to be creative and a wide, wide range of options with which to do so. So instead of traditional V-Day gifts – chocolates, flowers, jewelry, etc. – do something more personal and meaningful.

One of my favourite gift-giving options is to commission an artist to create something unique for her. As a personal example: my wife and I are both huge Green Lantern fans, so one year I had a jeweler friend of mine make matching Green Lantern and Star Sapphire rings for us.

Ask Dr. Nerdlove: When A ‘Nice Guy’ Won’t Leave You Alone

It can be as straight-forward as a portrait, or it could be a reminder of your relationship together – an illustration of a favourite experience, immortalizing an inside joke, even a brief comic about how you two met a la True Story, Swear to God. It’s a sweet and special way of showing you care.

Now in fairness: With VDay only a couple days away, that sort of thing is going to be difficult. So you may want to take a different tack.

In that case, I would suggest an experience, rather than material goods; something that drives home just how you feel about her. One option would be to get a little nostalgic and recreate your first date, or another significant romantic moment in your lives. It would be a sweet reminder of how you much it meant to you and what brought you both together.

On the other hand, day to day life – especially with kids – can take its toll on romance. After all, it’s hard to feel sexy when you’ve been elbow-deep in work, household maintenance and child-rearing. So I also recommend a one-day mini-vacation from everything, where you focus on devoting your time to letting your wife know just how much you desire her. Get the grandparents to take the kids for a day or two, load up on supplies (champagne, candles, lube, condoms, snacks, clean underwear and towels, etc.) and lock yourself away from everything, whether at home or in a hotel. You want to take the day off from everything except each other. No responsibilities or duties except for ravishing one another ,refusing to getting out of bed for anyone who isn’t either room-service or the cops telling you to keep the noise down.

And as an added bonus? When you come up for air on Saturday – sleep in late, it’s the weekend, dude – it’ll be time to celebrate National Half-Priced Chocolate Day.

Have an idea for the perfect Valentine’s Day gift? Had an amazing dream-date with your snugglebunny? Let’s hear about it in the comments. And we’ll see you in two weeks with more of your dating questions!

Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly advice column for matters of the heart, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. Nerdlove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write and put “Kotaku” in the subject line. Man, woman, single, married, he’s got advice for everyone.

Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove podcast. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us. He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove. Dr. Nerdlove is not really a doctor.

M’lady comic via Eat That Toast!


  • “I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. It’s literally a made-up holiday; not only is there not an actual Saint Valentine, but the story of his marrying Roman slaves is just a sexed up conflation of several Catholic martyrs in an attempt to take over a Roman fertility ritual, which was all about werewolves, fucking and flogging virgins covered in goat’s blood. Add that to a 19th century marketing blitz by printers and lace-makers (not kidding) and you get the Holy Day Of Lover’s Obligation.”

    Uh, ALL holidays are made-up holidays. And the origins of this day are more awesome than any other holiday. I mean, frikken WEREWOLVES AND GOATS BLOOD! That’s heavy metal, brother.

  • Nice article. A good reminder once again that Nice Guy only applies if you actually follow through with your intentions instead of being a greedy mofo who won’t do anything about it.

  • I think a lot of “Nice Guys” should read that first Q&A. I get the feeling that a lot of them probably aren’t aware of their behaviour and maybe now the penny will drop.

    • I dunno man, denial’s a powerful thing.
      I know a lot of guys let hope fuel their total obliviousness. Especially inexperienced guys, who are more likely to be the frustrated ‘nice guy’. Sometimes you DO actually need to up-front spell shit out. Verbally. No hints. Guys speak a different language to women, and what women think is obvious a guy will miss completely.

      Men and women not understanding each other? This isn’t new, it’s been the state of things for millennia. Great strides in gender equality didn’t change how we’re wired. Equal does not mean identical. Guys just need to be told, sometimes. Women hate that and think it’s too confrontational and hope it will go away if they’re appropriately indifferent, because GOD, surely he’d have got the hint by now… Nope. The dance continues.

      Just. Tell. Him. Sooner the better.

      • This was why when I was single, my method of being ridiculously blunt was pretty successful. “I don’t want to be your friend, I already have friends. I want to go out with you because I find you attractive, okay?” served me well.

        • More folks should do that instead of quietly sitting to one side, wishing and hoping and waiting, and getting upset when some-one else swoops in without ‘waiting their turn’ and all that other really sad things which are a waste of everyone’s time and emotional energy.

    • I agree, for guys without much/any experience with dating, if you go on the internet then so much advice is “be nice! be funny! talk to her!”. So that’s what they’ll do. But they don’t know how to do more, and a lot of media eg movies implies that the girl will fall for you if you’re really a great guy. So they just do that.

      Obviously there are weird and creepy guys out there, but it feels like people would prefer to demonise them rather than understand they’re just doing what they’re under the impression is what they’re “supposed” to do…

  • Feeling Left Behind > Giving yourself a ultimatum doesn’t make you correct or force clarity/remorse to the recipient all you are doing is making a choice and frankly expecting a different result is just naive.

  • Not even going to read the article. The guy in the photo reminds me too much of “Dick in a box.”

  • I’m not sure the Doctor was quite on the mark with the last one. When people get into the “I’m fat and not pretty” frame of mind, it can be tough to break them out of it. Especially if you’re so close to them since it’s easy to counter with “You’re just saying that because you’re my husband”. I’m no expert, but the best way I’ve found to counter that kind of attitude is to go out somewhere and get external opinions. If people who don’t know you that well are complimenting them, it’s going to mean a lot more. I know that sounds a bit counter-intuitive but that’s my general observation.

    Of course, it entirely depends on the person and their habits, personality, history, etc. Sometimes it’s just ennui and a pleasant surprise and show of appreciation will work. Other times, it needs to come from someone else for them to find the confidence they need to feel good about themselves. People are tricky like that.

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