Hello, Internet! Welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating column that's the galaxy's last, best hope for peace.
This week, we're getting into the differences between real life and what's in our heads. One reader had an amazing holiday fling, but is having trouble bringing that back into his real life. Meanwhile, another reader has a voice whispering in his ear that nobody could ever love him… how's he supposed to overcome his fears of rejection?
We're gonna smash some fantasies and fears today. Let's do this thing.
I met this girl towards the end of my holiday. We only saw each other in person twice across two days, which isn't a lot of time to get to know one another, but there was lots of intimacy and we had a great time together. A holiday romance, if you will. We've talked about seeing each other again and we really want to, but since she lives in another country we're not going to be able to see each other often.
Am I stupid and silly for wanting a relationship - long distance - with a girl I've only seen twice in person and spoken to for just over a month? I am tired of being told that long-distance relationships don't work. Part of me wants to do this to prove the world wrong, and I really want to see where this leads.
How do I broach this subject to her? What if she loses interest anyway? I want to skype (and so does she, apparently) but we have never got round to it yet.
There's nothing really established yet and we haven't talked about an exclusive relationship. I'm not sure what this is between us and I would like to change that. But why would she have a relationship with me, who lives in another country, when there are better options out there for her? It feels unfair to restrict her so. She's very attractive and I noticed when we were out that she gets a lot of attention from guys. I trust that she won't move on considering she's said multiple times that she wants to see me again, but I feel like if I don't tell her how I feel, or what this thing between us is, then it will happen anyway.
I've noticed that she's not one to push or force herself (with me anyway, as if she was unsure about advancing on her feelings), which is similar to me in a way. We both needed a little push from our friends to begin our fling in the first place. So considering that, I'm thinking perhaps she feels the same way I do but doesn't want to force the question or talk with me about where things are heading.
Anyway, should I just continue on as I have been doing, where we talk from time to time, try arrange something and then perhaps wait until we see each other before talking about a relationship? Is it too soon to talk about it now? I don't want to sound needy or obsessive, but at the same time I'm worried she'll move on if it's not established that we're going to see each other again and keep it exclusive in the meantime.
Thanks for taking the time to read this long message if you do! And even more so if you can help in any way!
Going the Distance
I don't think you're stupid, GTD, just a little twitterpated. It happens to the best of us. Right now you're caught up in the thrill of it all. I mean, shit, you're on holiday and you meet this incredibly attractive, awesome foreign woman and you click immediately and you know you have only a little time together and before you know it, you have spent an entire romantic day together and you're making plans to meet again in exactly one year…
Wait, did I just describe your experience or Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise?
Trick question: it doesn't actually matter. See, the thing is that you've had this legitimately incredible experience with this woman, one that's "OMG like a movie!" as I'm sure somebody will describe it, because I am psychic and don't question me on these things.
But the problem with this massive endorphin and oxytocin rush you're having is that… well, frankly, you've known this girl for two days. Vacations, cons, and other activities where you're on limited time act like relationship pressure cookers; things feel more intense because you're cramming in so much in such a limited amount of time. You've had an amazing time because you're in this alternate reality — Holiday World — where everything is new and different and strange. But once you've left Holiday World, you're no longer in that high-pressure environment and those intense feelings dissipate pretty damn fast. Now you're back in the real world wanting to keep believing and to hold onto that feeling while you're left with the realisation that you know sweet fuck-all about your snuggle-bunny that isn't pure surface because honestly, two days really isn't enough to get to know somebody. Doubly so if you're deciding to do the long-distance thing.
Despite what people have told you, long-distance relationships - even international ones - can and do work if you know what you're doing. Hell, I've officiated at the marriage of two friends who, for most of their courtship, lived with an ocean (and 2/3rds of another country) between them. But long-distance relationships are dating on Hard Mode. And an LDR when you've only known each other for two days? You're going to be missing a lot of the discovery and exploration that will tell you whether or not the two of you are actually compatible. You worked in Holiday World, but neither of you were in your everyday lives, where conflicts like "how you like to relax after work" or "different levels of cleanliness" don't exist. You simply can't have those experiences through Skype calls or even through regular visits.
(We shall ignore other issues such as "living in an entirely different country than the one you grew up in," because even the culture shock of moving from, say, Australia to the US or the UK can take a lot of getting used to.)
So, no, I don't think striking up a long-distance relationship is a good idea, especially right now and even more so if you're expecting a long-distance monogamous relationship.
If you're determined, then the best thing I can think to say is to maintain things on a casual basis — staying in contact with each other regularly, visiting when you can — but not to make it a thing until you've gotten to know each other better.
The other thing I think it's worth considering is that not every relationship needs to be an epic love story. Some are novellas. Some are short stories. Some are just a dirty limerick.
But if you want my completely honest opinion? I think the best thing you can do is let it be what it is: You had an incredible experience on your holiday. It will be a story that you'll be telling for years to come, making all of your friends absurdly jealous. Then you can write it up and pitch it to an up-and-coming indie filmmaker.
Hello Doc (May I call you doc?)
Sorry for my english, I'm from Europe, as you may know we're not the best english speaking people in the world. :) (I won't say the country, but we like cheese and wine)
I'm a mid 20s guy, I know it's a little young to complain about not having a girlfriend.
Anyways I don't know who to turn to for advices, all the others dating advice sites are in "bro' mode", let me explain: they all claim you need to be an abusive alpha male, intimidation, mind games, pushing the boundaries, manipulations, etc... wrapped in romanticism to get better at dating. I think it's a bit Neanderthal way to approach "love" or dating. I'd rather make a woman happy than myself.
I need your help because I'm socially inept with women (after 25, they're no longer girls). I don't have any problem to socialise with people or women.
My problem is not meeting women, nor befriending them. But making myself interesting in their eyes, I have the fear that I will annoy people in general by my presence, especially women. I don't find myself attractive. I've tried to change that I go to the gym, I eat healthy (I FREAKING LOVE COOKING), I write, but I don't go out very much, well I try to meet new people... I know I'm not perfect, I have my flaws, I'm aware of that.
(It also doesn't help that I have just moved to another country to study, so I'm trying to blend in.)
What I'm trying to say is that I have a very negative view of myself. I'm not going to say I'm a realist and put the blame on the others, if a woman don't like me, it's not her fault, she's not bitch or whatever, she just doesn't like me, she has free will. I am angry at myself, to be honest I don't like me, because I'm me. I've heard SO MANY TIMES : "You should like yourself, if a woman doesn't like you she doesn't deserve you..." and all the other BS. I know for a fact that I'm a below average looking guy, I am not complaining or anything else, but it hurts when very smart and beautiful women (I'm not talking about models or whatever, but women who are beautiful thanks to their mind first and then their look), don't even look at me or only see me as a "friend".
I'm very good at making acquaintances, but very bad at making my intentions clear in order to not be labelled as The Friend/ I'm not afraid to get rejected at an interview or whatever, but I have that mental old granny with her cats, telling me: "look at the other men out there, they don't play video games, they play an instrument, they go to parties, they dress like that, they don't spend their time writing stories or novels they go see people. You're too ugly, you can't compete with the others, you'll die alone." Which prevents me from approaching women and not thinking: Am I good enough to talk to her, what if I bother her, I don't want to be a pain in the arse, No don't go see her you don't deserve her, she'll send you flying because she'll think you're a freak.
And this granny follows me around women, I'm sure they can feel her, so I hide my shyness and pessimism behind a veil of humour and "joie de vivre," which is not how I really feel. I'm not happy for not being, what we may call normal. I know we're all unique, with our perks, humour, weirdness. But I don't fit in, I have to pretend to be funny, to be happy. It eats at my soul that people get interested in me for what I pretend to be and not what I really am. I'm a fraud to others and to myself. I know this hate toward myself is not rational, but I can't help the F...NG granny is always here to whisper in my ears. I tried a lot of things to get out of that spiral of hate, nothing worked. The extreme and worst solution would be to completely stop trying to have a love life and only focus on working and on myself. But I don't know if I want that.
Doc, you're my only hope... not really but as a geek it sounded fun.
Omlet Du Fromage
Somebody call the bellhop because there's a lot of emotional baggage to unpack here.
Let's start with a relatively controversial statement dealing with the question of your looks: Looks don't matter nearly as much as you think they do. Oh, don't get me wrong: being conventionally good-looking does help, nobody denies that. But not only does what people consider "good looking" vary from person to person but it matters less and less over time. It's great for immediate impressions, but most people don't form relationships based on those immediate impressions.
You know what matters more? What you bring to the table. Let us take one of your countrymen: Serge Gainsbourg. Serge had — if we're charitable — a face like a bulldog chewing on a wasp, but he still married and had affairs with some of the most incredibly beautiful women of his generation. Why? Because he had more to him than looks. He was incredibly talented, which always helps, but his biggest gift? He had presence to spare: when you were with him you felt like you were the only person in the world who mattered. People felt amazing in his presence and that made them want to spend more time with him. This is known as the Reward Theory of Attraction: the better people make us feel, the more we prioritise our relationships with them. The more time we spend with them, the more attractive they become in our eyes.
Now to be sure, there's quite a lot that you can do to maximise your physical attractiveness (and I go into this in my new book, New Game +) and to be more assertive when it comes to making a move, but very little of it is going to help until you deal with that voice in your head that says you can't do it. Right now, you're not even giving women the chance to realise how much you have to offer because you're listening to that voice.
And you know what? That voice you're dealing with is the voice of fear. Fear is the mindkiller. Fear is the little death. And fear is a fucking liar.
(Yes, I know that orgasms are called la petit mort, mister smart-arse-in-the-comments, you're very clever. Now shut up.)
You're afraid of being rejected. It's an understandable fear and one that almost everyone experiences no matter how traditionally hot or socially experienced they are. But it's not the trial that you think it is. The biggest problems with a fear of rejection is that you're basically afraid not of the rejection itself but the emotions that come with it. You're afraid of how you'll feel, and you end up avoiding the situations that will put you into a place where you might feel those feelings. That's what your fear is doing when it's telling you that you're not good enough and you don't have a chance: it's trying to protect you from feeling those feelings. You are, quite literally, afraid of being afraid.
So what do you do about it? Well, to start with, the worst thing you can do is try to logic your way through it. You can't reason with fear. Fear is, by its nature, illogical. You can only learn to handle it and in doing so, lessen its effects on you. So you want to start by facing down your nightmare scenario. I want you to imagine the worst possible rejection — the kind that just crushes your soul. Play it through in your head, from start to finish. Yeah, that sucked, didn't it?
Now get ready, because we're doing it again… only this time, you're going to imagine it all in black and white, like an old-fashioned movie. It feels less real, doesn't it? Now imagine the exact same scenario… except now everybody has chipmunk voices, like they have sucked down too much helium. Now repeat it again, only this time everybody has giant comedy heads. Or they're all 9 year olds. Or it's playing at double speed and Yakkity Sax is playing in the background. It's all pretty ridiculous now, isn't it? But you see, that's the point. The more you abstract the image in your head, the less power it has over you. This is important because it helps break down the fear of being afraid and helps shut up that fear that's yammering in your ear. That's when you're able to be your best, most authentic self.
The most important thing you can do when dealing with your fear of rejection is to, well, get rejected. Cold and hard truth: it's going to happen… but it happens to everyone. Nobody, no matter how hot, goes 5 for 5. No matter how hot some dude is, there're women out there who wouldn't bang him with a rented vagina and Stephen Amell to do the pushing. There is no way to avoid rejection. Much like in boxing or martial arts, you're going to get hit, so you have to learn to take the punches when they come.
But here's the thing. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
I can tell you from experience: I have approached — and been rejected by — more women than you can imagine and it is never as bad as you think it's going to be. Yes, on occasion you will encounter the cartoon villain that never left high-school who makes a giant production of rejecting you… and quite frankly, they're hilarious. The last time that happened to me, I literally had to stop for a second to process things, and then I could not stop laughing.
The worst rejection I've ever received — and this was from a fairly well-known model in South Beach — was silence. She just turned her back and ignored me. Don't get me wrong, it stung… but it didn't break me. It just meant she and I weren't going to work and I was better off finding someone I was compatible with.
The more you come to grips with your fear, the more you learn to control it and to face it, and the more you'll feel free to be your best self. And that is what women are going to respond to.
Hi Doc, long time first time here. This seems like a pretty simple question but it keeps coming up and I wonder if you have any advice:
My girlfriend and I have been together for 3 years now, living together for 2, and I can't imagine life without her. She's smart, funny, just all-around wonderful. And she games, which is of course a bonus.
However, I learned very early in our relationship that she gets motion sickness from the camera in many games. Particularly first-person perspective, but occasionally other cameras too. Generally any fast camera movement will be a problem.
Since I'm not a big FPS fan, I've mostly just tried to be considerate when she's around, and save the games that make her nauseous for when I'm alone. But lately I got a new ps4 and the problem has been more and more noticeable. I feel guilty about playing it, especially when games I'd hoped would be fun to experience together (The Last of Us, for example) trigger her nausea.
Is there anything I can do about this besides continuing to be considerate towards her? Would it be absurd for me to suggest some Dramamine or the like? On one hand that feels like an overreaction, but gaming is a big part of both our lives and I feel weird about enjoying it at her expense.
Not Down with the Sickness
There're many games, even for next-gen consoles, that aren't likely to induce motion sickness. You might try playing RPGs or adventure games, for example — those games are usually as fun for watching as they are for playing.
It might also help to adjust the refresh rate on your TV; sometimes the issue isn't the camera but the camera and the unnatural smoothness that a high refresh rate can give to images. The Last of Us on PS4 runs at 60 frames per second by default; you could try going into the options menu and turning it down to 30. That might help.
In general, though, living together means making compromises. If the games you're playing make her nauseous, then the best thing you can do is not play them when she's around. If your place is so small that there's really not any way for her to not see the screen when you're playing, then perhaps she can read or work on her computer while you play games, or you can play games when she's asleep or out.
Have you had a holiday fling? How have you handled a fear of rejection? Share your stories in the comments and we'll be back in two weeks with more of your questions.
Ask Dr Nerdlove is Kotaku's fortnightly 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.