Welcome to Ask Dr NerdLove, the only dating advice column that is the walkthrough to the dating sim that is your life. This week, a reader wants to know: what do you do with someone who says one thing, then promptly turns around and says another? Meanwhile another reader needs some advice on how to start dating as a late bloomer...
What about when a guy prematurely ends a relationship and then changes his mind?
I had been talking to a guy I met on OkCupid for a few weeks. We went on one date. We both had a great time. He continued to text me every other day and asked me out again. Then the day before we were supposed to have our 2nd date he texted me:
"I want to be up front with you. We haven't talked a lot and I'm involved with someone else. I had a great time last week. If you'd like to be friends we could still hangout."
I felt he mentioned "we haven't talked a lot" to mean he was upset that I didn't initiate texting or text him enough. I am careful not to text too much as it can come off as needy and I try to be careful to not rush into relationships. Broken heartedly I sent him back:
"I hope I didn't come across as not interested, I'm hesitant to text a lot at the start of relationships. I'm not going to lie I'm bummed. You're quite the catch. I hope you change your mind. (But I know you won't because you're a good guy)."
He then replied:
"Wow I really wasn't expecting that. I didn't think you cared to be honest. Let's stay friends then, ok? I don't have time to meet with you before my trip this week, but maybe sometime when I get back?"
Did I really come off as uninterested? Was he impatient with me? What's his rush? Am I just setting myself up for a harder fall? Is this relationship now jeopardized? Why suggest to still be friends if he's more interested in another woman?
I am unsure of my feelings on all of this. It could all be a misunderstanding, or he could be the kind of guy that's only interested in one thing.
Should I give him a second chance?
Welcome to online dating, where everybody's confused and the answers don't actually mean anything. I think there're a couple of issues at play here. The first is the difference in how people use online dating.
There tend to be two kinds of people using online dating sites, especially ones like OKCupid: you've got the people who are playing the field and talking to (and seeing) several people at once, and then you have the people who zero in on one single person at a time and quit communicating with all of the others. From the sounds of it, your pen-pal is one of the former while you're one of the latter.
This difference in dating style can result in some unnecessary heart-ache and confusion when a more monogamous party realises that he or she isn't the only person their potential partner is pursuing, even if you're not in an actual relationship yet. Meanwhile, people who are pursuing several people at once tend to be more willing to cut off unresponsive matches and move on.
(Incidentally, pursuing multiple interests at once is an approach I recommend more people take when using sites like Match, Plenty of Fish or OKCupid. In the early stages, dating is very much a numbers game; in online dating it's even more so.)
This, I suspect is what happened: your erstwhile paramour was playing the field and assumed that your reticence in responding was an indication that you just weren't that interested in him. Rather than try to go out on a second date that he assumed was going to be more of a trial than a good time, he decided to just end things. He suggested being friends because… well, that's the stock "let them down easy" phrase that I really wish people would quit using if they don't actually mean it.
In fairness: he could also mean "I want to keep you around in case this other thing doesn't work," but I'm giving the benefit of the doubt here. Besides: men and women can be platonic friends and he may well have liked you enough to give that a shot.
Your response made him realise that you were interested after all. Now that this has been cleared up, he's interested in giving things another try and seeing how it goes.
So, that's the first issue. The second issue is that you have different communication styles and that threw him off.
In a world of instant messages and texting, people read a lot into how quickly someone responds (or initiates conversations). Most people are going to assume - rightly so, more often than not - that when they aren't getting much back from the people they're messaging that the other person doesn't want to talk to them. No response is a response, after all. The more unanswered texts they send, the more short, brusque responses they get… well, those are usually all signs that the other person really isn't interested and is hoping that the messenger will get the hint.
You're worried about appearing needy or clingy, which is understandable, but you may have gone a little too far in the opposite direction. Personally, I'm a believer in conversations. As long as the two of you have a good vibe going, keep the conversation alive. You don't necessarily want to be Jane-On-The-Spot with replies — you don't want to give the impression you've been waiting anxiously for him to reply — but imposing artificial texting limits or time to reply is just game-playing and impedes real communication. Just go with the flow of the conversation and you should be fine. And if you really would be more comfortable with clear rules: one new text per response per day. He replies, you text again. He doesn't? Leave it until either he texts you again, or until the next day.
Now, should you see this guy again? If you're still into him, then sure, give him another chance. It's entirely possible that he just wants sex - but that could be applied to dating anyone. Any date could be two people wanting entirely different things. That's part of the dating process. Figuring out whether you're on the same page or not is one of the reasons you go on dates in the first place.
But honestly? I think the problem was just miscommunication. If you're still interested in him, there's no reason not to give it another try. If not… well, chalk it up to bad timing and move on.
I feel like I'm stuck in an impossible position. OK, here is a quick recap. I'm gay, I don't know anyone else who is gay (apart from someone who isn't close by), I'm an introvert and I don't drink.
I think just one of those things would limit me, but I sometimes feel like I have no options. I spent my youth thinking I liked girls, I even dated a girl and unsurprisingly it didn't go anywhere (I moved away when she tried to kiss me, thinking back on it makes it sound like a duff comedy). At some point I even thought there was something wrong with me (in before someone says being gay is wrong).
I've had no luck with on-line dating sites (I'm in my twenties and everyone is over thirty or nowhere near where I live). I thought about a gay bar, but that sounds like pure hell. To be perfectly honest I don't want to go to an actual bar (I don't drink because my family has had 'issues' with alcohol in the past).
I haven't 'come out' to my friends/family. I'm not sure I want to be a spectacle in that way. I've never been one to be at the centre of attention. So I have absolutely no idea what to do. I'm not just looking for a physical relationship, what I'd like is someone to spend time with on a more intimate level. Someone to love.
Should I try a bar? Specialised gay social groups? They all sound pretty scary to me and I'm not sure I'd even be myself at such a place.
Well If you can help, that would be much appreciated.
Thanks for your time,
Your limitations aren't really limitations, Noob. There are tons of non-drinking introverts out there - gay, straight and everything in between - who find relationships outside of bars and clubs. While I am a believer in meeting people in bars, it's not for everybody and that's just fine.
I've written a number of articles on places to meet people that aren't bars or clubs (in fairness, they're primarily written for straight men looking to meet women) but the biggest take-away I can give you is that you want to play to your interests.
Take the things that you're already passionate about and find ways to leverage those into going places where you're going to interact with people. If you're into music, go to concerts and shows. If you're more bookish, go to bookstores or to lectures. Audit classes in subjects you're into. Join an amateur sports league, find volunteer opportunities… anything that ties into something you're already passionate about.
Not only will you be doing something you love - which helps charge your emotional batteries - but it will bring you in contact with people who share your interests. And even if they're not your type - more on this in a second - it will increase your social circle, which can make it easier to meet people who are.
Now, the biggest problem you're going to be dealing with is that by the sound of things, you have a more limited dating pool than a lot of other people. The majority of guys you meet are going to be straight. If you want to ensure that you're meeting more gay men, then you're going to want to go where the gay men are. Gay bars are an option - and not every gay bar is necessarily going to be a loud, rowdy club scene - but they're not the only option.
Those gay social groups you're worried about? They're actually your best bet to maximise your chances of meeting someone who's gay, awesome and single. I get that joining a group can be intimidating, but it's not nearly as scary as you're worried it might be. Remember what I said earlier about doing things that align with your interests? This is where it really comes into play. Find a gay social group that focuses on something you're already interested in; it may be a volunteer organisation, it may be a book club, who knows. Check MeetUp or your local alt-weekly and see what's in your area. The fact that it's something you already love will make joining it easier. Plus: nobody said you have to dive right in and be Mister Social right off the bat. You're allowed to take it at your own pace and ease yourself in until you feel more comfortable being an active participant.
And that applies to dating as well. Don't let your desire to be in a relationship overwhelm your desire to find a romantic connection. There will be people who'll push you to get physical, and you'll have those moments where it feels like this will be your only chance to date anyone. Remember that you have the absolute right to proceed at the pace that you're comfortable with and to find the kind of relationship that's right for you. Anyone who doesn't get that or respect that? They have just self-selected out of your dating pool and you'll be better off for it.
I do want to take a second to circle back around to what you said about not being out. I'm a cis-gendered straight guy, so take this with appropriate levels of salt-grains but: not being out is going to hinder you in relationships. Being in the closet means that people you're going to want to date are - by necessity - going to be re-closeting themselves in some circumstances, because otherwise they'd be giving your orientation away. That's going to be a bitter pill for some potential partners to swallow under the best of circumstances; under the worst, it's going to actively disqualify you in their eyes.
Joining some of those gay social groups might be just what you need to help ease your fears about coming out, and help you find a way to do so that works for you. Being around other people who've been there before, who can support you and advise you through the process can be invaluable and can provide you with the security and the confidence you need. And hearing other people's stories can help too; there are lots of things that many people wish they knew before they came out. There are websites like the Human Rights Campaign that have resources for coming out which you may find helpful as well.
(Important caveats: People should come out in their own time at their own pace. There're obviously times when being out can be dangerous. And like I said: I'm a straight guy. I don't have the same skin in the game, as it were.)
Don't stress yourself out or let your imagination intimidate you. Take things slowly and you'll find that it's not nearly as scary or stressful as you're afraid it will be.
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.
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.