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,
Hi Dating Nerd, so I'm seeing this really cool girl I met on Bumble, and at this point we're pretty casual, but I want things to get more serious. I'm not into anyone else, and I'm not exactly psyched on her sleeping with other guys But I'm afraid to take things in an exclusive direction. I don't want to say the wrong thing, or screw it up, or scare her away. Should I take the chance? How do I do this right?
– Fearful Frank
Hi Fearful Frank,
First of all, congratulations. This is a great step. Deciding that you're going to see someone naked exclusively is a big thing. And the good news is that you really, really shouldn't be worried about telling her. There's no need to hesitate. You don't have to rehearse a big speech that addresses all of her potential objections. Just go ahead and say what you want.
Yeah, I know you're scared of being needy. This is pretty common these days: younger people getting into relationships are scared that introducing any expectations or guidelines into a relationship will kill the fun. The idea is that nobody wants to be high-maintenance, so you might as well go the other way, and be as low-maintenance as possible. Just be totally chill — to the point of zombie-like catatonia — and you'll achieve relationship bliss.
This is total nonsense. Mostly, expectations aren't what screws up relationships — it's the opposite. Not having expectations is a terrible idea. Being emotionally attached to someone but not knowing what you're going to get out of them is like carrying your heart through a minefield. Because, I hate to break it to you, but sometimes you, like, need people. You need to be taken care of sometimes, in whatever way — sexually, emotionally, or even physically, if you get wicked bad food poisoning. And when you're in that situation, if you're in a no-rules, super-chill, easygoing relationship, you won't know if your partner will be there. That's a terrible burden. Even non-monogamous relationships need rules.
You might admit this intellectually, but you're concerned about something else: you're worried about freaking her out. My response to this is simple. So what? So what if you freak her out a bit? That's actually not a huge problem. Listen. Monogamous relationships are scary, complex, intense things. You're saying, "there's an outside chance we might grow old and die together." You're proposing that, ideally, you'll stay together through thick and thin, ecstasy and influenza, triumph and humiliation. And you'll have to just ignore all those other people in your life you want to bone, indefinitely. Being a little intimidated by that is human. That just means you respect the depth of your obligations. If you aren't a little frightened by the intensity of a really good relationship, you're probably a robot. (Shout out to my robot readership.)
Ultimately, if you're not willing to say or do things that might scare your partner, you're never going to get anywhere in your romantic life. You've got to take courage and be willing to say what's on your mind, even if it's going to rock the boat a bit. Otherwise, you'll never buy property together, or try that weird butt stuff you want to do, or talk about your deepest emotions. What kind of a relationship is that?
Now, maybe this doesn't address your concerns, because what you're worried about isn't violating the hilariously stupid Always Be Chill rule that has somehow been propagated throughout the millennial generation. Maybe what you're actually worried about, deep down, is that she'll reject you, and just cut things off completely. There's a fearful scenario playing out in your head: you expose your truest desires, and she says, "meh, whatever" and kicks you back into the giant pit of online dating apps from whence you came.
What I have to say to that is: too bad. That's a possibility you have to deal with. Just grow up and do it anyway. Because if she doesn't want to seriously date you, this is information you need. Otherwise, you'll just be sort of listlessly floating around in your non-relationship, waiting for the love affair you want to take shape by itself. This will not happen.
Rejection sucks. But you've got to embrace it, because the sooner you get rejected, the sooner you can move onto the next thing. Unless you two are alone on a remote desert island surrounded by shark-infested waters, there's probably someone else who will, in fact, be willing to date you seriously. Though it may hurt, you've got to pull the plug on this thing, rather than remain indefinitely in ignorant dissatisfaction.
I know it's not easy. I've been there. Charity was really cool, despite her totally stupid name. We'd been seeing each other for maybe six weeks, and it was exhilarating. Sometimes we'd get into really deep intellectual stuff over coffee, and sometimes we'd get drunk and play pinball and make excellent, sloppy love. She was exactly what you want in a partner: someone you could have fun with anywhere, even in a grocery store line, even in a ditch in India in the rain.
And it was so good that I was deeply scared of screwing it up. What I wanted more than anything, really, was a future with this girl. All the corny stuff: decorating an apartment with hipster terrariums, going on vacations, and whatever. But I wasn't confident enough to reach out and seize it — I didn't have enough self-esteem. I thought she was doing me a favor by being with me, rather than being an equal participant. So I just didn't want to break the spell.
Well, looking back, Charity totally would've dated me exclusively, if I had been bold enough to make it happen. But I didn't, so she kept seeing other guys. And one of them was smarter than me: he had the balls to make a strong move. So she broke it off with me and started hanging out with him exclusively. Shortly after, I unfollowed her on social media, because I couldn't take the pictures of them eating brunch together, or going to France, or doing all the stuff we could've done.
But I learned my lesson. Years later, I've got a fantastic girlfriend who's always got my back when sh*t gets serious. And all it took was taking her out for dinner, and nonchalantly asking her whether she wanted to be exclusive. She said yes and we've never looked back. Be like the me of now, and not like the me of before. Just man up and do it.