The Dating Nerd is a shadowy figure whose whereabouts and identifying details remain unknown. What we do know is that he is really, really good at dating. He’s been on more dates than you can shake a lengthy bar tab at, and he’s here to help the average guy step his dating game up a notch — or several.
Hi Dating Nerd,
I noticed something that kind of pissed me off the other week. I was out at a party with my girlfriend (we’ve been together about 6 months) and at some point I noticed her talking to another guy I didn’t know and they looked like they were really enjoying themselves. I went over and joined the conversation and it kind of calmed down. I didn’t say anything to her about it, but it made me realize that she always gets along great with other guys when we’re out socially together? How bad of a sign is that? Am I dating a future cheater? Can I ask her to stop flirting with other guys or will she just see me as a controlling psycho?
Hi Control Freak,
If your girlfriend is really flirting with another guy in front of you, you should probably take a deep breath, relax, then dump a truckload of poop on the guy’s lawn in the middle of the night and set it on fire. Better yet, find out where he works, and complain to his boss that he won’t give your vibrator back.
That would be nice, wouldn’t it? I mean, if that were my actual advice — that you should seek immediate comeuppance, maybe even in the form of a punch to the face. Lighting poop on fire is pretty satisfying. Unfortunately, though, dealing with this is issue is actually going to require some emotional intelligence on your part.
Which is not easy. Jealousy is powerful. It’s deep down in the lizard brain. It often overwhelms our more refined emotions. And it’s stupid. Jealousy sounds like this: “Johnny have sparkly toy I want so I take Johnny’s juice box.” Nevertheless, you’re a real grown-up big boy, and I believe that you can let your jealousy go and really take a look at what’s going on. Which means taking a look at your own behavior first.
I want you to ask yourself a question honestly. You see her flirting with other guys. OK — but are you flirting with other girls, too? When you’re out at dinner together, are you making little quips at your hot waitress? At parties you attend together, does she see you trot out that special variety of charm you reserve for young women? Are you sure?
I’m not accusing you of anything. I presume that you’re not, like, telling her friends that you’ve never been to Japan, but you would like to visit Japanties. But there’s a serious chance that you, yourself have an urge to charm attractive women, just as your girlfriend has an urge to charm attractive men. And that it leaks out now and then.
Which is normal. You’re a dude with a sex drive. And it’s also normal, if that’s happening, that you haven’t noticed. Basically everyone on earth thinks of their behavior as “the normal stuff I normally do because I’m normal” and the noticeable behavior of anyone else as “that weird thing that weird people do because they’re weird.” Being an intelligent human being involves transcending this, and considering whether other people might feel like you’re being a jackass.
So before you go off and accuse your girlfriend of anything, do consider the possibility that she thinks being flirtatious is OK because you’ve shown her that it’s OK.
OK. But what if that’s not true? What if you somehow behave like a disgruntled dental receptionist with her attractive friends, but she giggles happily at every dumb random dude’s dumb random joke?
I hate to say it, but that still doesn’t prove she’s doing anything wrong. Why? Well, everyone’s standards for behavior are different. Consider the fact that in certain parts of Utah, making strong eye contact with a girl you met in church would be tantamount to sending her a dick pic. Consider the fact that, in Iraq, dudes hold hands, but never, ever talk about each other’s wives.
So maybe your girlfriend doesn’t think she’s flirting whatsoever. After all, have you ever tried to define flirting? As far as I can tell, flirting is just “interacting with someone in a way that’s semi-demi-sort-of-suggestive.” That’s ethereal as all hell. Maybe your girlfriend is just really friendly.
Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean you have to like it. Just, please, don’t assume you know what’s going in your girlfriend’s mind. The world would be a much happier place without the male tendency to think that we men are Magical Pussy Psychics who can see directly into a woman’s mind.
Accordingly, if this is important to you, and you want to talk to your girlfriend about it, don’t start the conversation by saying, “I’m tired of your flirtatious BS, act like a lady or it’s over.” Start the conversation by saying, “Hey, listen, I don’t want to accuse you of anything, but could we talk about the way you tend to interact with dudes? Sometimes, it makes me feel kind of sketchy, and I wanted to know what you think about it.”
That conversation might actually get you somewhere. Maybe, at the end of it, she starts behaving more modestly. Or maybe, after you talk about it, you realize it isn’t such a big deal. It’s going to be an awkward conversation. But the road to a good relationship is paved with awkward conversations. If you don’t confront your differences with your partner honestly — if you either lash out randomly, or act like you’re cool with stuff you’re not cool with — then your relationship will slowly turn into a mass of resentful unsexy garbage.
However. Just because I’m suggesting that you be diplomatic, it doesn’t mean you should be a pushover. Maybe your girlfriend actually is being terrible. Sometimes, in life, you try to empathize with someone’s screwed-up behavior, and all you end up with is a deeper understanding of how screwed-up it is. Generally, I think, a good rule for relationships is “assume you aren’t dating some sort of crazy sociopath, but remember that it’s not an impossibility.”
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So, carefully watch how your girlfriend reacts when you gently mention that you’re confused about how she behaves with men. If she gets a little defensive, that’s not ideal, but it’s understandable. If she’s apologetic and agrees to talk about how to make it better, that’s amazing. You’ve got a good woman on your hands. Don’t mess it up.
However, it’s another thing entirely if she turns on you. If she gets mean — if she tells you that she laughs at other guys’ jokes because they’re funnier than you are. Or if she tells you to stop being such a little bitch. That’s a good sign that she knows exactly what she’s doing — that she knows she’s making you jealous, and she doesn’t care. That’s a sign that you’re dating someone who ignores your comfort in favor of the instant gratification of giving some other dude a boner. And that’s not a place you want to be. Have some self-respect — have more respect for yourself than she has for you — and dump her immediately.