Ask Dr. NerdLove: Is There Any Point In Dating When The World Is On Fire?

Ask Dr. NerdLove: Is There Any Point In Dating When The World Is On Fire?
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Hello all you frightening nipplybeasts, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the only dating advice column to help you speed run through the worst parts of dating and start the New Game Plus of your love life.

This week, we’re diving into the weird corners of relationship drama, the sorts of questions you never thought you would need to ask until you suddenly had to deal with them. How do you know when you’re being too picky about what you want in a relationship? How do you find the motivation to actually date when the world is a raging trashfire? How do you tell your current girlfriend about how you’ve memorialised a girlfriend who died suddenly?

It’s time to gird your loins and insert coins. Let’s do this.

Hey Doc,

Well, I’m single, lonely, and mildly irritated by everything. I feel like this because I’m so isolated from the majority of people I know. Daily, I properly speak with around eight people, anything more than “hello” or another greeting. I am wondering if a dating site would be my best option because it is hard for me to find a girl that I like that fits all of the following traits:

Heathen (Norse religion)






Roleplays at a minimum

I feel like I’m practically asking for a valkyrie that plays D&D. In my last relationship, she was only tough. That was all she brought to the table. When I talk to girls outside of my social circle, but still the common people of the region, I feel like I’m speaking with a child, and it sucks. I value the mentality above all else, but I still want the physical ability to be there.

I also feel that I will never have a relationship that makes me content. My whole family on my da’s side is extremely analytical- it’s surprising that I exist. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree, but how do I not pick at all of a girl’s flaws, even though I’m around her every day?

Really, there are three ultimate questions: 1. Should I not be so picky 2. Should I use a dating site to find someone, due to locale 3. Should I wait until I have more friends of the Norse religion to choose from?

Desperately Seeking Freya

You’re asking the wrong questions, DSF.

I mean, you can be picky to your heart’s content, and if you’ve got your heart set on finding Lagertha who also loves D&D and World of Darkness games, then more power to you… as long as you realise that the longer your list of “must haves” is, the list of reasons why you’re still single is equally as long. This doesn’t have anything to do with you per se, but more about pure demographics. The more specific you get, the more you narrow your potential dating pool down.

Take, for example, your desire to find someone who’s a practicing Heathen. The number of active Asatru practitioners alone ranges from somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000 depending on which census you refer to.

So if being an active practitioner of old Norse religions is a must have then you’ve already decimated the number of potential partners. The number of women who a) practice Asatru and b) are single is going to be very small indeed. Of those, the number who’ll meet your standards of looks, charisma, athleticism and also gaming? You’re going to be lucky if you haven’t narrowed it down to double or even single digits.

(And that’s before we winnow out the Odinists, who’re white nationalists.)

At that point, online dating is likely not going to be your best bet. While there are undoubtedly sites that have higher pagan populations than others — even ones that specialize in single pagans—you’re still going to be dealing with a very small population at best.

And that’s assuming that they’re even in your geographic area.

You’ll have better luck going to where the Heathens are and meeting them in person. Which, incidentally, includes metal festivals and burns. Evidently there’s a disproportionate number of Asatru practitioners in the Burner community.

But here’s the real problem you’re going to have: your social skills kinda suck. And that’s going to follow you whether you’re trying to meet people online or in person.

Here’s the thing about dating sites, DSF: while they’re great places to meet people — especially as a way of supplementing meeting people in person — they’re not magical, liminal spaces where all your problems disappear. People whose social skills are rusty in real life tend to find that those same limitations transfer over to dating sites too because, hey: talking to folks online is functionally the same as talking to them in person.

If you’re having a difficult time talking with folks who don’t fit firmly within your very narrow sphere of interests in person, you’re going to have a similar problem having those conversations with people online.

Because to be perfectly honest? The number of folks who don’t match what you’re looking for is going to be a lot larger than the people who do. And even if you happen to find the 5th ed Valkyrie of your dreams, you’re still going to have to deal with other people in your life. If she — and your social circle — are the only people you talk to, you’re going to find yourself isolated really damn fast.

I suspect that part of your problem is that you aren’t comfortable talking with people who don’t already match your narrow set of interests. If you’re feeling like you have a hard time talking with folks with whom you don’t already have major commonalities, then it’s a lot easier to write them off as being less interesting, less intellectual or less stimulating than it is to accept that you’re the one who feels awkward. What you need to do, more than anything else, is learn to develop your social skills and get more proficient at interacting with people in general instead of sticking to the small slice of the Venn diagram where all of your interests intersect.

Part of this is going to involve consciously choosing to be interested in people and being willing to get to know them as more than just “not my tribe” or looking for the flaws that retroactively justify your not feeling comfortable with them in the first place.

You don’t need to be Baldur the Beautiful or the most social butterfly of the Aesir, but you do need to be both willing and able to talk to more people, and for those interactions to be more than just a grunt or monosyllabic interactions.

The more social you become, the more socially successful you’ll be. Both in person and online.

Good luck.

Hey Doc,

Been a lurker on the blog for years and decided to reach out because I feel stuck, but not for the reasons I see other guys messaging you about frequently.

I’m far from a virgin, but my last meaningful relationship was in high school, and I’m 25 at present. I have a job, my own place that I keep reasonably clean, and a therapist I talk to every month about my problems. I started seeing him almost two years ago, after the 2016 election basically broke me. Despite the therapy and the antidepressants, I can’t seem to affect the positive changes I want to make in my life, namely get a job that’s not a night shift, and by extension, be more social.

To put it simply, I feel like there’s no point because every indication seems to point towards the world being screwed. From Trump getting elected in 2016 and leading an effort to turn the US into an authoritarian state to recent reports about climate change, everything seems to point towards disaster in my lifetime. And the worst part is, not enough people care to do anything about it. Everyone seems to just be wandering around, hypnotized by pop culture. I’m just as guilty as anyone else – I spend much of my free time with my nose in a book or lost in a video game because I find those worlds infinitely preferable to ours. The people in them (usually) actually give a shit and try to make change happen in meaningful ways, rather than dithering around while the planet gets hotter and hotter.

And all that leads me to ask: what’s the point of it all? Why should I take care of my physical health when everything seems to be headed towards disaster in the next few decades? What’s the point of making friends and meeting people when we’re all just going to eat each other as the world collapses around us? Perhaps most terrifying of all, why should I find the will to carry on living now when the future is just a nightmare looming in the distance?


A Writer With Issues

You, WWI, are a classic example of “the problem you have isn’t the problem you think you have.”

Your biggest issue isn’t that the world is a blasted hellscape where we’re all rapidly discovering that the falcon no longer hears the falconer and that the blood-dimm’d tide is loose, it’s that you’re dealing with depression and your current therapies aren’t helping.

I mean yeah, on one level you’re not wrong: Trump got elected and he seems hell-bent on ending the great experiment that was representational democracy, Nazis are having a resurgance and politicians and corporations don’t seem to give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut over the fact that they’re hastening the end of the ecosphere as we know it.

But on the other hand, you seem to have gone out of your way to miss… well, literally everything. From the get-go, the people have been active in ways that we haven’t seen in decades. We’re seeing protests, marches and political activism that has been unmatched since the opposition to the Vietnam War. The Trump administration has been handed defeat after defeat and even attempts at stacking the deck haven’t worked out for them the way they’ve hoped. 2018 was a political landslide that lead to the Dems taking back the House of Representatives and, in the process, reclaiming the duty of conducting oversight on the Executive branch.

Hell, around the world there has been positive changes. Just this week in the United Kingdom and Eurpoean Union, the UKIP were handed defeats so profound that it may well have destroyed the party entirely, and entire swaths of right-wingers are terrified of people with the right to bear milkshakes.

So while I get that you’re feeling frustrated and hopeless, the idea that people are just idly standing by and letting it happen is compete and utter horse shit.

And hell, even if it were true… that doesn’t mean that you can’t start trying to do something about it. I mean your choices here are cowboy up or just lie there and bleed.

You may be one man, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t contribute to the cause. You can call your senators and representatives and make your voice heard. You can volunteer with election campaigns, both for local politicians and for one of the current candidates running for the presidency in 2020. You can organise in your community, join a protest and otherwise be the kind of man that Steve Rogers knows that you can be.

But that’s not really the issue here.

The issue here is that you’re dealing with depression and depression fucks with you on multiple levels. It saps your motivation and your energy, it clouds your vision and it whispers in your ear about how there’s just no point to anything. And it’s all the more seductive because it uses your voice to do it.

But depression is a goddamn liar. Things may be dark — nobody’s denying that — but it’s neither inevitable nor hopeless yet. But before you can do anything else, you need to deal with it.

And here’s the thing: I can tell you from personal experience depression is hard to fuckin’ control. Different therapies and treatments just won’t work for some folks. It takes a while to find the one that you need. Some people respond to cognitive behavioural therapy. Some folks need talk therapy. Some people find that yoga and mindfulness meditation helps; for others, it’s a waste of their time. Some people need medication. Many people need a combination of all of the above.

And even then, it may take time to find the exact combo that works for you. It takes a while for antidepressants to work, and finding the right medication and dosage is more art than science. You may have the right therapy but the wrong therapist. And most importantly, you need to be willing to advocate for your own needs.

So if you’re finding that your current regimen isn’t working for you, that’s something to bring up to your therapist. You may need a different dosage or a different medication entirely. Hell, you may find that what you need is to switch therapists. Therapy is, in its own way, a lot like dating. You need someone you have actual chemistry with, someone you feel understands you and your problems and who you believe you can be open and honest with. If that’s not your current therapist, then it may well be time to find someone else.

You’re seeing a lot of darkness in the world, and that’s understandable. But right now you need to start being your own light in the darkest hour. You’re gonna have to be your own hero because nobody else is coming to save you.

But you can do it. You’ve got the strength. You’ve got the power. You can make a difference, in your life and the world around you.

Write back and let us know how you’re doing.

All will be well.

Dear NerdLove,

Bit of background before my question: a few years ago I was engaged to my childhood sweetheart. We had been together for 15 years and I thought we were happy up until the day she took her own life. Naturally this was hard on me and I spent a good three years dealing with this.

Recently I have started trying to see people again and I met a girl that I can see myself seeing more often. We have been on 6 dates and things seem to be going well. But I have a tattoo on my arm that was done in memory of my late fiancee and she has been asking questions about it. I want to tell this person the truth about what happened and what my sweetheart meant to me. But I don’t know how to tell her.

I fear if I don’t do this right I might A) scare her off or B) make her feel like she is competing with a dead girl. But I want to let her in, I just feel like I am walking a tightrope without a net. Any advice on how to approach this topic with her and not ruin what seems to be a chance at being happy again would be very helpful.

In Memoriam

Before I get started: I’m so sorry for your loss. Suicide is always a tragedy and in many ways it can be incredibly hard on the folks who’re left behind.

Now with that in mind: you’re overthinking this, IM.

First of all: if the fact that you lost someone you loved to a very real tragedy is enough to scare somebody off… well, to be blunt, this wasn’t going to be a relationship that would last.

Second: I don’t think you get just how appealing and romantic many women will find this scenario. The romance genre has more stories of “man who dealt with a tragic loss is learning to love again” than I can easily count, and there are women out there who will eat that with a spoon.

But honestly, there’s not really much you need to say here. This isn’t some candle-lit shrine to her memory. It’s not as though your current girlfriend is going to discover she looks JUST like your childhood sweetie. This isn’t some deep dark terrible secret that you need to hide, it’s a heartbreaking piece of your past. You lost your childhood sweetheart and you got this tattoo in memory of her and the history you had together. That’s it. That’s all you need to say. If she has questions, you can either answer them or tell her that you’d rather not talk about it right how, but most people are going to take their lead from you. If you make a dramatic production about this, then yeah, she might feel weird about things. But if you treat it — not matter of factly but with seriousness and tact — she’ll understand.

Just recognise that what you’re doing is showing somebody that you trust them enough to be vulnerable with them. In all likelihood, she’ll feel honored that you were willing to open up to her like this.

Good luck.

Did you have a long list of dating prerequisites? Did you learn to love again after a tragic loss? Share your story in the comments below and we’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.

Ask Dr. Nerdlove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write [email protected] and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.

Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove YouTube channel. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold 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.


  • For gods sake, Americans and the world in general need to stop thinking their politics are the end all of everything and that it’s ever really a choice.
    Yeah, the world is on fire but beyond the comfortable little bubble folks have been living in, that fire has been raging for bloody years.
    Sure, your president is a wanker but guess what, so was the last one, the one before that, the one before that and so on so forth.
    Had Hillary got in things would’ve been no different, you would still be clashing with China and Russia, still siding with despots, still looking to start a war with Iran, still leaning on the world and funding/arming every extremist element to stoke the instability that gives them the excuse to interfere.
    It didn’t start it 2016 and it won’t stop any time soon.

    Politics is basically just the Voice or American idol at this stage, a scripted reality show where candidates are preselected by the same organisers, investors and producers to give people the illusion that they chose the winner.

    • Yeah but the 2016 US election combined with the recent 2019 Australian election… yeah it’s fucking grim. QLD Labor just approved the Adani mine environmental plan to send the finches there extinct, so yeah. Grim.

      • Still just trudging along the same path, it’s only the speed that changes.
        Like I said, everything happening now was always on the cards regardless of who won.
        Yeah it’s grim but people pretend to believe in a system they know is broken and allow themselves to become divided because it’s just easier that way.

        • Voting for the less bad party would have at the very least a step in the right direction as opposed to a step in the wrong one – especially when the more bad party in unambiguously, egregiously bad. Obviously corrupt, cruel, and incompetent at everything that doesn’t involve getting reelected or feathering their bed. Theoretically, if people keep choosing the less bad option the more bad option withers and dies, and maybe a less bad than the less bad option will emerge as a viable contender and the cycle begins again. It takes a long time but it’s a process. Unfortunately in this case, it also works in reverse. Bad voting decisions lead to worse and worse leaders.

    • Ah yes, it’s all rigged and they are all the same, so we might as well let it burn – that’s a super constructive argument you have there.

      If you genuinely think that the vagaries of US politics haven’t had a big impact on the course of world events since WWII, and that Donnie isn’t markedly different than all US presidents that have held the office in our lifetimes, then you just aren’t paying attention. You are well within your rights to do that, of course, but I don’t see much value in pretending disengagement is a virtue. Frankly, to borrow your language that’s just exactly what “the organisers, investors and producers” would want you to think.

    • The “Trump being elected broke me!” claims are especially insane… None of the other bullshit in the world managed it, shit you were directly dealing with on a daily basis, but that idiot being elected did? Then you clearly get MUCH too invested in shit you personally have basically no control over and I’d say you’d need real help.

      I feel like a lot of American’s are far too attached to their political bullshit, and opt to use it as an excuse to not participate in reality with the rest of the world. Instead they run around claiming whoever they didn’t like being elected is the end of the world, despite the fact for the vast majority they’ll likely never even be meaningfully effected by anything that elected individual does.

      • Honestly, it depends on who says it. Disenfranchised minorities who clearly could see that a Trump administration would be particularly hostile against (for example, non-American nationals, Muslim practitioners and LGTB) were justified when feeling downcast after the election results.

    • Not sure what you getting at. Does this mean that people should just not care about politics? If the situation is and has been as dire as you say… shouldn’t care and effort towards change be a concern of everybody? And when politicians who particularly worsen the situation come around, should people not seek to replace them?

      • Quite the opposite, I think if people actually cared about politics as much as they pretend to do they would be trying to change the system itself rather than taking part in the pagentry of it.
        People should be deeply concerned but most aren’t because it’s easier to just play along than it is to actually try and change thing.
        It’s easy to say that we should replace politicians who come along and worsen things but where exactly are the politicians coming along to better things?

        I will put it to you this way, politicians are universally recognised as being liars, cheats, promise breakers and spin doctors driven by personal interest and gain while being almost untouchable for any of it.
        Despite this most people choose to accept this as being just the way things are, “Oh you know, that’s just politics, you have to play the game, right?”
        Whenever anyone points put how bad it is, those who claim to care will always come flying to the defence of the system rather than expending any effort to change it because they have thrown themselves in to it so deeply that admitting there’s a problem is admitting they themselves are wrong.

    • Yeah, the world is on fire

      I agree with the sentiment of your comment but I’ve gotta push back on this line. The world is not on fire, we’ve actually never had things better from an economic, cultural and health perspective. We live in a time where the internet has freed us from many of the shackles that held regular people back in the past, even if it has brought more visibility to things that upset us.

      People are talking like the sky is falling and that catastrophising has got to stop. We can make the argument about the planet actually getting hotter but when people are saying the world is on fire they are almost always talking about some delusion that society is on the brink of collapse. It’s not true, and we need to stop saying it.

      • Thank God someone in here has some sense. There are millions good things happening in this world that you never hear about becuase fear is what sells and the media know it.

        • Just because some people leave the comfortable bubble of Twitter and the evening news, it doesn’t mean they have no sense.
          Of course tons of good things happening in the world but that doesn’t mean all the bad stuff goes away and I’m not even talking about the empty fear mongering from the media, I’m talking about all the stuff you don’t readily find in your news feed.

          • Just because some people leave the comfortable bubble of Twitter and the evening news, it doesn’t mean they have no sense.

            For the record, I don’t look at either of those things. Twitter would be the last place I would want to go to have an objective sense of reality.

          • true, there are both good and bad things we don’t hear about.

            I just refuse to subscribe to the theory that the world is burning. If you think life is hard now, compare it to any other generation. We have it better than any other before us.

      • I get what your saying too but I do wonder how you arrived at those conclusions, just about every report, statistic, outlook and review in most of those fields over the last decade has shown decline and downtown.
        The ones who produce and receive those figures are also the ones who front the TV and media to say everything is awesome.
        Australia alone in the last few years has rejected nearly every major economic, health and environmental finding despite the fact that we can see the effects every day.

        Sure, it’s a bit extreme to say that society is on the brink of collapse but shit hasn’t looked great for a long time and it’s just as extreme to pretend that alls fine and looking bright because it simply isn’t.
        As I said elsewhere, all the good doesn’t make the bad go away and the bad has only gotten worse.

        • I think to have this conversation productively I’ll probably need to see the reports you’re referring to. Can you share anything with me?

          • Well I was curious where you are getting your I for but sure, why not.
            Where did you want to start, economics, health, nationally globally?
            The World Economic Outlook is a good place to start for the first, detailing how global growth is slowing, consumer debt is back to pre GFC levels, corporate borrowing and bailouts are at an all time high and how government debt has increased exponentially, surpassing levels seen before the last financial crisis and beyond projections long held as sustainable.
            The OECD reports are another good source, the forcasts for the Australian branch have been quite good and it’s where many of our politicians and financial institutions pull their statistics from.
            The part that always seems to be excluded though is the warnings of how that prosperity is coming at an increased cost to the Australian people with rising financial inequality, poverty, wage stagnation, rising living costs etc.

            Health isn’t much harder, be it the WHO, GHO, Legatum, IMHE etc or the growing evidence from government and scientific sources in to the study of world and national health.
            Life expectancy down, infant mortality up, increasing fertility decline, mental health down, organ disease up, nutrition down (both in people and natural sources) all across the last decade, give or take.
            Prob gone most interesting metric for health is that it improves dramatically between the third and second world before a peak and slow decline in the first world.

            I’m not touching the cultural side, while we are in a state of political division unseen in most of our lifetimes, this shit has always gone in cycles throughout history.

            If you really want me to start posting links to it all I’m not entirely against the idea but I find most people chose not to read that sort of stuff.
            I’m still equally curious where you get your info too though.
            (General direction is fine)

          • I find a lot of people in first world countries tend to limit their discussions to that. I had a friend post online that the 1% should be treated like the player coming first in Mario cart, no help, no special items, etc. A comment then said “Blue shell the 1%”. The irony is, if you’re in Australia, the US, the UK, etc. you ARE the 1%. What you’re really talking about here is the 1% OF the 1%.

            Globally, things are improving massively, especially for the poorest of the poor. Check out this graph from Bill Gates (the dude who has now dedicated his life to this stuff)

            I know people think things are dire in places like the US and Australia but that is totally relative and even from a cultural perspective it’s never been safer to be minorities (like, not white and not straight, for example). Also, in Australia specifically, our migrants are doing really well (page 5: We can also see that Australia specifically is doing very well on the OECD, like you said (link for anyone else reading: There is a gap between the wealthiest and poorest but considering our average income is 10th in the world out of 40, my understanding is that our poorest are doing better than many other countries’. Honestly, I’m not sure why you’re highlighting the OECD cause from my perspective, we’re actually crushing it in most areas.

            I think it’s telling that Australian’s feel less safe here than the average according to OECD, but our actual homicide rate is much lower than average as well. It’s clear there’s a perception issue which is likely due to the double-edged sword that is the internet – all information is at our fingertips, but all information is at our fingertips. Now we hear about the horrible things happening instantly, and we have everyone telling us the world is on fire, it’s only natural to feel like the sky is falling.

            If you wanted to have this conversation about America instead, you could very easily make the case for what you’re saying. But America has always been bad at equality, some people live like kings, others live like paupers. Income inequality, homicide rate, education – they all suck. America has always been a land of extremes, I doubt anyone here would debate that.

            Now bear in mind that I’m no statistician, so I very well could be reading everything wrong. I’m serious when I say send links. I think it’s important to get some clarity on this stuff as I’ve not had to discuss it in this much depth before. I’m especially interested to see macro-economic trends, as that’s the area I feel least comfortable discussing.

        • The early half or so of the 20th Century was objectively awful, because we had two massive world wars, and at the end of the second one it looked like we were marching towards nuclear destruction – a fear that persisted into the 1980s. Despite all the other conflicts that have occurred since WW2, none of them have compared with the scale of death and destruction from that war. The world is far more peaceful and open – even with all the bullshit that goes on.

          For all the awful things that are happening, you still live in a first world nation with extensive free public healthcare (which isn’t changing – despite scare campaigns), a social welfare system (which has its limits, but at least it exists), and can go out in the street and call the PM a fascist nazi misogynist and not get dragged off in a black van. The people I think @geometrics is referring to are those who think the world is marching into oblivion because DRONAL DRUMPF BREXIT QLD- LNP 2019. It isn’t – none of those are particularly great results, but it’s not the end of the world. We do not live in a fascist police state that puts people up against the wall to shoot them – ironically, the groups doing that since the 1940s tend to be the left-wing ‘socialists’ that said people seem to idolise.

          Things could be far worse – and would have to be far worse before we descend into anarchy.

  • People shouldn’t stop dating, getting married and having kids just because of Trump and climate change. After all close family groups will survive better in the end times when hunting down lone survivors for food

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