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Captain Awkward’s Dating Guide for Geeks

Hi Captain,

I met a man via online dating about a month ago. He seems like a not-terrible person on paper. Probably even nice. He’s friendly, has a sense of humour, watches similar shows, and is showing consistent, genuine interest in me. We live in different cities and have never met, but we’ve been texting almost every day for the last few weeks. I don’t expect to be able to meet him until September when I move cities to attend grad school. At that point, I will be in a much better position to see him regularly if we click.

The trouble is, I’ve already stopped being excited. I have to remind myself to text him back, and I often forget. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, because here is a person who is clearly great and interested in me, and checks off all the things on paper. I would really like to be dating him, or someone, but:

a) I am very bad at generating meaningful feelings for people without in-person interaction.

b) I still have all these feelings for a very unavailable ex (we’ve been broken up for 3 years, so it makes no sense for me to have Feelings, and I would like to be over this person immediately). If I could move on with someone else, maybe I could finally let this go.

c) It takes me a long time to feel anything for anyone unless we have a strong emotional bond and pre-existing intimacy (ex and I discovered we were bi together. We were/are also best friends). I could meet this person in September and still feel nothing until we’re in a car crash together or something ridiculous. This makes the quick-decision world of online dating really difficult, because it takes me a long time.

So I don’t know what to do. Is it normal to feel kind of indifferent about texting someone you haven’t met? I’m not wildly excited to continue texting him (the way I think I should be) but I’d be open to at least meeting him in September. Would it be incredibly weird to say, “I find it sort of difficult to stay in regular contact via distance when I’m getting to know someone. I think you’re nice, and funny, and sweet. Would you be willing to put this on pause until September so we can see if there is real sparking going on?” How do I date people when it takes me a very long time to feel close to people unless we’re in some sort of crisis? I don’t know the difference between “There’s no spark here” and “There’s no spark here- yet”.

More importantly, why is my heart such a stubborn beast? I don’t expect you to know the answer to that one, but I would appreciate your advice with the rest of this very much. Thanks!

– Literally Elsa from Frozen

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Dear Captain Awkward,

I am mentally ill, to date I have spent 23 days on involuntary psych holds. Most of this wasn’t warranted but that is a whole other thing. I am also a stand up comic and when I am hanging out with comedy peers everything is fair game and no one really shrinks from your dark stuff. You’ve been 5150ed me too lets compare notes. I am looking to date through online sites and assume that this dynamic is not universal. I like to get stuff out in the open as quickly as possible but is this something that warrants first date discloser? 2nd Date? 

I haven’t even started replying to posts of people I am interested in yet and panicking over what to do when this comes up. Therapy and medication have helped a lot but being committed had me feeling like I am a piece of shit and not worthy of love for a long time. A large part of me just wants to never bring it up, but that doesn’t seem fair. I have PTSD and I want any potential partner to know why something might suddenly upset me out of the blue or cause me to immediately need to leave a certain environment or situation. 

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Dear Captain Awkward,

After two months of just-can’t-get-enough-of-you, he went cold overnight. Just like a switch was thrown. No responses, no communication, nada. Okay, it’s happened before with other guys, I can deal.

What has also happened before which I CAN’T deal with is running into him again and getting that question. You know the one. “You’re not mad at me, are you?” [cue sheepish grin]

I simply cannot come up with a satisfying answer to this question. If I say, “why, yes, you’re a big shit-ball,” it feels like I’m giving up power somehow, and it’s easy to dismiss me as bitter, as someone who’s still hung up on him. If I say no, then he walks away feeling absolved. Either way, he feels good / righteous.

It’s surprising how often they turn up again with this question. I hate getting cornered this way, and I _will_ run into him again (small town). It’s hard for me to even articulate to myself why this question feels SO manipulative and self-serving.

I’d really like a script that is the truth, but also puts the responsibility for his shitty behavior right back where it belongs — on him. I want nothing to do with making him feel better about how he behaved. Make sense?

signed,
Being Prepared Gives Me Peace of Mind

Dear Prepared,

I’m sorry you’ve encountered Shirley Jackson’s Daemon Lover.

If you ever encounter this situation again, I offer you this script:

“Undecided.” + Awkward Pause + Turn back to whatever you were doing.

Picture this lady Viola Davis as Annalise Keating from the pilot episode of the ABC show How To Get Away With Murder that aired September 25, 2014 saying it:

Viola Davis from How To Get Away With Murder

You don’t need to act cool or smooth things over. You don’t need to reassure him. He knows you’d have a good reason to be angry with him, or he wouldn’t ask the question.

I hope everything starts to feel better soon.

It’s time for the monthly-ish post where we answer the things that people typed into search engines as if they are questions.

1. “Captain Awkward help my boyfriend keeps trying to optimise me.

Eff that dude. He’s not your Pygmalion and you are not a project.

2. “How should you act when you see your former affair and his wife in public?”

Give him a “hey, ‘sup bro?” nod and keep on walking/don’t stop to talk to them. You’re not going to be successful at pretending you don’t know him (hence the nod), but let him be the one to scramble for explanations about how y’all know each other. If you don’t engage at all it makes it less likely that you’ll have to lie to some poor woman’s face.

Clint Eastwood nodding like a bro.

3. “How do I tell my husband I’m sick of him playing games on his phone?”

Text him?

In all seriousness, I think it’s a good idea to make mealtimes and certain other times gadget/screen free, and I think you can ask him outright. to do that.

4. “What to do when your boyfriend’s ex wants him back.”

Ignore the ex to the extent that you can and don’t engage with them if you can help it. In my experience, this is almost always a partner problem more than it is an ex problem, as in, the ex can want all they want, but how your partner treats you is everything.

5. “What to do when every time I go out side my neighbour tells me all her troubles.” 

Awkward. Give it like, 2 minutes, and then deploy some scripts:

1) “Hey, good to see you, but I actually don’t have time to talk today.”

2) “Hey, nice to see you, but I came out here to get a bit of quiet. We can catch up another time, maybe.

3) If you’re like me, and you always carry a book, “Hi! I’m in a really exciting part of my book and I’ve been waiting all day to read it. I’ll have to catch up with you another time, thanks.” Pull out book.

Your neighbor will likely never get the hint, so you’ll have to ask. Prepare for sighing and harrumphing. If she makes a big show of avoiding you, be magnanimous – you’ve won! If she gives you some space, once a week, maybe just hang out with her for 10 minutes and ask about her day to show her that boundaries don’t mean y’all are enemies. If she doesn’t give you space, get more terse. “When I said I wasn’t in the mood to talk, I really meant it. Good night!”

6. “All our neighbors don’t talk to us.”

Maybe your neighbors just aren’t your people*? Try finding friends and a social life elsewhere?

My other question is, do you talk to them? Could you find the friendliest-seeming person and bake them a cake or something to break the ice? Give it some time and see if it gets better.

*”Aren’t your people” *could* mean “you have unwittingly moved to a racist, homophobic, and sexist hellscape.” Sorry, that’s a real thing, and it sucks.

7. “Just because he’s my boss should he not act on his feelings about me?”

Pretty much, bosses should not try to date or seduce or romance their employees and should look to, I dunno, literally anyone else.

8. “4 dates means he must like me.”

Sadly, that’s not a guarantee, though the possibility is there. In a new dating relationship, look to the present tense. What are things like between you now? Does he demonstrate that he likes you? Do you like him? Is it easy to make plans?

9. “He’s ignoring my Facebook messages.”

Stop sending Facebook messages and see if he contacts you.

10. “How to know if a girl loves you secretly from long distance?”

Ask her? She has the universe’s sole monopoly on the information you want.

11. “iamabeautifulperson.”

Fuck yeah!

12. “What does it mean when a boy suddenly message me saying sorry to be blunt but do you like me yes or no.”

Most likely explanation: 1) The boy likes you and is trying to make it known 2) Y’all are in middle school.

You don’t have to answer right away if you need time to make up your mind. “I’m thinking about it. Why do you want to know?” is a perfectly good answer.

13. “Having trouble accepting that my adult married daughter is gay.”

The best thing you can do is to realize that she was always gay there was always the possibility that she would be gay. It’s a fact, not something that needs your acceptance in order to be true, but if you want to keep having a relationship with her you need to do the work. Please be a good person about this, educate yourself, tell your daughter you love her, and don’t make her sexuality an issue between the two of you.

14. “A guy told me my messages creep him out what does that mean.”

Bluntly: Stop sending that guy messages. He doesn’t like them.

15. “Comebacks for people gaslighting you.”

In my estimation, no one is topping this lady who figured out her boyfriend was gaslighting her and then made him watch Gaslight. My heroine.

The key with gaslighters is not comebacks, it’s to get yourself out of proximity to them and in proximity to good people who treat you well.

16. “My boyfriend wants to move in together but I don’t.”

Listen to and believe that voice that is telling you that you don’t want to live with him. Maybe it’s that you don’t want to live with him yet, maybe it’s that you don’t want to live with him ever, maybe there is a fixable problem that you can work on together, and maybe it’s not fixable. Whatever it is, sit with it quietly, write about it, talk to trusted people about it, talk to your boyfriend about it, but don’t discount it.

17. “He’s mean to me, rude to me and doesn’t care about my feelings. What does it mean?”

A sign that says

It means: Get this dude out of your life forever.

Monty Python & the Holy Grail: Run away! Run away!

Hello,

I am a 22 year old male and my crush is a 19 year old. We met by chance a few months back.
The first time we had a proper conversation she said that she didn’t want a boyfriend.
So, I eased on the flirting completely. After a couple of meet ups I started receiving signals from her. It may have been my wishful thinking.
I take her out for a movie, one thing led to another and we kissed.
When I dropped her home that night, she said she doesn’t feel the same way. So, I let it go.
The following day I receive a text saying that she didn’t want us to continue being friends anymore because she feels awkward and she can’t deal with it.
I have strong feelings for her. More than anything I don’t want to lose her.
Kindly Help!

Thank-you.

Hello Yourself!

I guess you are part of a recurring theme, writing in the day after this posted.

This woman doesn’t want to be with you, romantically, or as a friend. She told you this directly. She, not I, not the Internet, and definitely not you, is the sole authority on this question, and she has communicated her decision quite clearly. The only right decision here is to respect her words and leave her alone. If at some point she misses your friendship, she knows how to find you.

Sometimes people don’t make up their mind about you all at once. They need more information, so they do things like “go on a date with you and kiss you” to try out the notion of you. That’s what happened here – she gave your kind offer some more consideration – and then she made a decision. You can’t “lose” her because “having” isn’t a thing; there is only choosing, and being chosen in return, and not being chosen.

I have had people try to convince me that I was wrong to break up with them or to decline to deepen or continue a relationship. The trajectory of those interactions ranged from sad to annoying to terrifying. I have tried to convince people not to break up with me, to give me one more chance. I can only pray that they (plural ‘they’, unfortunately, not the groovy gender-neutral singular construction) have long since deleted the Emails of Desperation and Neediness I sent. You’ve all seen how wordy I can be here, now imagine that “talent” and energy applied to convincing you that you really, really should stay with me even though you don’t want to, complete with numbered lists of reasons and airtight logic cases for why it really, really should work out.

Picard, Whorf, and Riker with Facepalm

Hounding those people – people who genuinely liked and cared for me but who just didn’t want what I wanted – is one of my true regrets in life. I would give a lot to be able to take it all back, to disengage more gracefully from those past relationships, to save my dignity, their patience, and to be true to a principle of consent in all things. Fortunately, I did eventually learn that you cannot logic someone into loving you back. My life got so much better when I learned that lesson and I hope yours does, too.

I know it’s terrible to contemplate losing both your hoped-for romantic connection and a friend, and I sympathize greatly with what you must be feeling. Please, take the time away from her as the gift that it is. Delete her number from your phone, hide/unsubscribe/unfriend her social media feeds, lick your wounds, grieve for what might have been, and throw yourself wholeheartedly into other connections and interests. Read books by women. Let time do its healing work (It will, I promise). Be a person who takes “no” for an answer.

Dear Captain Awkward:

I am 13, and the girl I love is 16. I have a higher IQ than I should at this age, so believe me I am 13. Anyways, I have been talking to this girl for almost 3 years. Throughout this she has had the same boyfriend, R. About 2 months ago she broke up with R, so I was kind of uneasy. I really wanted to expose how I felt to her, and I have flirted with her before, which she said I was cute. So anyways, I pretty much just vented my feelings to her and I think I might have caught her off guard. She declined my request to be her boyfriend even though as of now we have been best friends for 2 of the 3 years. She said she had a lot on her plate because she was moving from Texas to Tennessee. I live in Ohio, so this is sort of long distance. What do I do to show her I truly care for her?

Dear Letter Writer:

To show your friend that you truly care for her, believe her. 

Believe her when she says that she doesn’t want you to be her boyfriend.

Believe her when she says that she has “too much on her plate.” The translation for “I don’t want to/can’t be in a relationship right now” is “I don’t want that kind of relationship…with you.”

You were brave and honest when you told her how you felt. You didn’t do anything wrong when you did that, in fact, you did something wonderful and cool. But now that she’s told you that she doesn’t feel that way, it’s not up to you to make any more grand gestures to try to change her mind. If you need to take a break from talking with her or even stop being friends for a while because it’s too hard, that’s okay – limp off the field, lick your wounds and take all the time you need. Channel your feelings into writing songs or poems  or stories (that you don’t send to her) or finding another creative outlet and throwing yourself into it. Friendships can survive unrequited crushes, but they really do fall apart when one person won’t take no for an answer. You can’t win her heart right now, but you can respect her choices and show her that you do by giving her time and space.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m newly single, and getting back into dating. I went on a date last night with a guy I met on OKC. We met up at a bar, and he seemed cute and smart, and as we talked it seemed like we had lots in common! But about twenty minutes in, it seemed clear he wanted to do the touching-kissing thing. I had just met this person, and I wanted to get comfortable around him before I let him put his hands on my body (even though he was cute and promising!). So I was sitting kinda sideways and he was sitting facing me, legs apart, physically accessible, etc.

He said something like, “You’re very guarded. I’m in the restaurant business and we read people quickly and I can tell that you’re very guarded.”

I felt weird, but there was this voice in my head saying, “You never let yourself just flirt and have fun!” So I sat facing him and let him touch my leg, and we kissed and had drinks, and the conversation was good! And we had a lot in common! And he was a good kisser!

Then he told me about a male friend of his in the military who got falsely accused of rape. Apparently the guy was going down on the woman, and she told him to stop, and he didn’t. She made a rape accusation and then later said she was lying.

So this guy (my date) said, my friend didn’t penetrate her—it was just oral sex! She didn’t physically resist! She made that accusation about three other people! She said she was lying!

I was thinking, 1. That was rape. 2. Wouldn’t be surprised if three other guys also didn’t listen when she said to stop, because that isn’t uncommon. 3. Women retract these accusations under pressure all the time. Warning lights are going off in my head. But I didn’t want to get into a fight about rape with a stranger. So I redirected the conversation.

Then after a while he said “I would really like to kiss you in a place other than here.” I took this as “I am ready for you to invite me to your place now.” I was caught off guard. So I said, “I don’t think I’m ready to sleep with you yet.”

So he said saying, 1. I just want to make out! I never said anything about having sex! 2. We should do this soon because the attraction is here now and if we wait it will fizzle out. 3. Are you worried about being a slut? I feel pressured and uncomfortable. He asks what’s wrong. I say, 1. You told me about how you think things that are rape are not rape. 2. Now you are pressuring me to take you home with me.

He was immediately horrified. He started saying “Calm down! Relax! You shouldn’t be so anxious!” I felt more and more uncomfortable. Finally we parted ways. I went home and sobbed. I have no idea why. I think I missed how easy it was between me and my ex, and now it’s like, ahhh, weird dating is my new reality!! Plus I just felt sooo uncomfortable.

My questions are, 1. Is it weird that I really don’t like being touched or kissed within 20 minutes of meeting someone? I Is that what’s expected these days? It happens to me a lot. I think everyone is reading Neil Strauss and think they have to “kino escalate” immediately.

2. Is there a script I can use when someone tries to touch me before I’m ready? One that is friendly?

3. I’m looking for my next meaningful relationship, ideally, but I wouldn’t be against having a fling. But I feel my idea of “casual sex” and most guys’ is different. Mine = we go out! We flirt! We go to art galleries and museums! We have sex sometimes, once we’re ready! But not very often / we date other people. Theirs = I expect sex immediately when we meet, and thereafter whenever I text you even if it’s 2AM, I expect you to come over and service my needs.

Does anyone have experience expressing what their idea of casual sex is and guiding the other person’s expectations toward that, provided casual sex is something they want too? I feel like what happens is I run into this “We must have sex right now!!” expectation and then I flee.

And finally, 5. Should I have calmed down? Was I overreacting about this guy’s creepy rape story? Intellectually I don’t think so, but there is a loud voice in my head saying “You ruin everything by overreacting all the time!!”

Thanks for your thoughts!

Awkward Dater

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