“If she asks for time apart, you have no choice but to walk away, otherwise you’ll become her doormat like this guy did.”

The Question

Ahhhhh Dating Nerd,

This girl I’m seeing is really great. Like, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m awake. We hang out, we text, we go bowling, we hook up, but she won’t commit to me. What the hell am I doing wrong?

– Scared She Won’t Commit

The Answer

Dear Scared,

When you say that this girl won’t commit to you, what do you mean exactly? Has she threatened to murder you in cold blood if you ever change your relationship status on Facebook? Has she signed a legal contract saying she’ll never buy you a Valentine’s Day present? Does she have an anaphylactic reaction to the idea of keeping a toothbrush at your place?

I’m assuming not. My assumption is that when you say “She won’t commit,” you mean that she’s implied that she’s not interested in being your exclusive main squeeze, and you haven’t raised much of a protest in response. You haven’t really made a stand. When she said that commitment didn’t entirely appeal to her, you dropped the subject. And you kept going along with the kind of relationship she wants, not the kind of relationship you want.

And it’s, y’know, it’s OK. The sex is good. The conversation is easy. You laugh a lot. You’re proud that people see you in public together. But you’re always in a little bit of emotional pain. You’re entertaining fantasies about vacations together, about the cool apartment you could have, even, God help you, about marriage. Fantasy and reality are painfully close but never quite meet. Meanwhile, you have to put up with the knowledge that she’s probably seeing other guys — maybe you’re having waking nightmares about whatever goateed douchebag is also seeing her naked. But you put up with this. You don’t tell her, ever, that she has to get serious or get lost.

Now, as cowardly as this is, I get it. Really, I do. You don’t want to freak her out, because you don’t want to lose her. You want to be cool, or low-key, or no-drama, or whatever other synonym for “catatonic” the kids are using these days. You’re worried that if you assert yourself, this beautiful girl will run away to some other milquetoast submissive who will conform themselves to her every desire.

So you’ve settled on an alternate approach — the long game. This is the plan where you’re just going to keep your non-relationship going, until, someday, she notices that you’re boyfriend material, at which point a full-blown relationship will suddenly bloom. Surely, something will convince her: when she tastes your wonderful spaghetti sauce, or notices your progress at the gym, or sees how much your co-workers like you. At this point, she’ll completely fall in love with you and renounce her easygoing ways.

This seems like the safe, easy option, I know. And I’m sure there are lots of things about you that are worth loving. Your immaculately maintained facial hair, or whatever.

But this kind of long game you’re playing is a guaranteed fail. And a slow one — a gradual path to more and more misery. If you keep going this way, months from now, you’ll still be scratching your head, wondering why you can’t lock this girl down. And she’ll still be happy that you’re sleeping with her whenever she wants, without burdening her with the requirement of caring about you. Maybe she’s happily maintaining a roster of two or three dudes, while you’re interested in her, and her alone.

And here’s why: You’re showing her that she doesn’t need to take your desires seriously. That she can get everything she wants, while paying very little attention to your needs. That you were totally cool with the fact that you showed her your heart, and she, in response, asked if you wanted to watch something on Netflix.

Obviously, the way you treat someone affects what they think of you. If you take a girl out for fancy dinners, she’ll assume you have money. If you text a girl in all-caps, she’ll assume you’re an idiot. And if you act like a doormat, well, she’ll assume you’re a doormat.

And once she gets it in her head that you’re that type of person, chances are, that’s what she’ll think of you permanently. People’s minds are hard to change. Think about it: When you go through your day, are you fully considering the humanity of every person you meet, based on all the up-to-date information? No. You’re not a super-computer, you’re just a regular guy who secretly likes Broadway musicals. (It’s OK, really.) You make judgement calls about people, and then update your judgements only if absolutely necessary.

So you’re continuously making an impression — the impression that you’re a pushover — every time you answer this girl’s text at whatever-o-clock, and every time you play it cool when she calls some other guy when you’re out together, and every time she flakes out on your plans. And so, every day, it becomes less and less likely that she’ll actually be your girlfriend someday.

Don’t do this. Don’t teach somebody that you’re a feeble person, if you don’t want to be one. Actually act like you mean it. Tell her that the casual thing was fun while it lasted, but you can’t take it anymore. Tell her that she’s great, but if she won’t date you for real, someone else will.

There’s a catch here, though. When you do this, you have to cozy up to the terrifying reality that she might say no. Maybe she actually doesn’t value you enough to be a long-term partner. There’s a possibility that, in her mind, everything you can offer her isn’t worth it — the multiple orgasms, the Disneyland passes, the private jet flights, whatever.

Embrace it. If she feels this way, you should know — you should be aware that you have a lot to give, and you should give it to somebody who can take it. If she doesn’t want you, you shouldn’t want her. I know that it might seem painful to go back to online dating apps, or chatting up girls in bars, or even spending a bit of time alone. But it’s better than compromising your dignity. So tell her that you won’t do that anymore. For her sake and yours.

Given that I genuinely love this woman and care for her deeply, what would you recommend that I do? I can’t allow her to treat me like a revolving door, but I don’t want to entirely shut her out if she is somehow trying to extend an olive branch without coming right out and saying it.

As we all know, women are best judged by their actions, and right now hers are rather inconsistent (which implies low interest). I know I can’t do anything to control her, but when she contacts me again (which she inevitably will, either in person, or by phone or e-mail), what is the best thing for me to do?

Les — who is “Mister Confused”

doc love’s answer

Hi Les,

Let’s clear something up right out of the chute. The decision to “date exclusively” wasn’t made by you and Erin together. She decided to date you exclusively. What have I told you guys in the past? We pick, but they choose. Big difference, and one you shouldn’t lose sight of. And why did she make that decision? Because you managed to drive her Interest Level up into the 90s. At least for a little while…

Les, when you use the word “gold,” I’m very suspicious that you’re acting like a stooge. I’m the best love cop on Earth, and my evidence for saying that is that Erin’s Interest Level, by your own admission, began to drop.

And as time goes on, being anti-Challenge will continue to lower Interest Level. (But I do want to compliment you on recognizing that Erin was not a Giver. You recognized that one-third of what she has to offer you wasn’t all that great, so you were down to two-thirds of a woman.)

she stopped wanting you

So let’s get this straight, pal — moving in with Erin was never an issue, not because you went to the same church, but because she had lowered Interest Level in you.

It’s worth looking at this phenomenon more closely. Interest Level doesn’t plummet suddenly from 95% to 35%. It sinks slowly, as the guy — you, in this case — says and does all the wrong things. And the guy thinks that he can get away with it because the girl is already locked in. And she is — when her Interest Level is at 95%. But eventually it will drop to 93%… then 89%… and then 84%… and when it hits the magic number 49%, that’s it, boy — you’re all washed up.

Now Les, I’ll give you $100 million if you can get a woman to say, when you ask her what she wants in a man, that she wants a guy who doesn’t lower her Interest Level by kissing her fanny.

When Erin told you she needed time apart, you should have said nothing. You should have smiled and walked out. You don’t sit there and give her your game plan, you don’t tell her how you feel, you don’t tell her what you’re going to do — you leave . But you did all this stuff. And in her mind, it was another wimpy form of begging .

Les should’ve walked, but he endured even more torture…

breaking up is hard to do

You went on to tell her that you should break up like adults. Les, exactly how do adults break up? As far as I know, there are no sweet, mature ways to do it.

When Erin informed you that she needed her space, that was it. Finito . The end. You hit the magic number: 49%. Of course she’ll play with you like a cat plays with a mouse at 40% to 49% and give you a little false hope, but when it hits 39%, she’s in the arms of another guy.

In other words, she’ll play with your head until she strikes pay dirt with another jerk, another weakling.

you think you’re a tough guy?

But whoa, wait a second here — you got tough and set some hard boundaries that really bothered your girl, huh? Sorry, Les, but she wasn’t really upset. It was just a little smokescreen she threw up that had nothing to do with anything. She was grabbing at something, anything, to indicate her low Interest Level. (The problem is, women never come out and say it. “He lowered my Interest Level due to his deportment,” is not something you’ll ever hear tumbling out of a lady’s lovely bee-stung lips.)

So what happened to all those tight boundaries when Erin showed up at your home? Why didn’t you just duck out? Why didn’t you tell her you were going to the kitchen for a second, then walk straight out the back door and come back at midnight?

Because you wanted the torture. I just hope you haven’t answered any of her phone calls or e-mails. I have a feeling you did, though. Know why? Because you took that pizza with the works over to her when she didn’t even ask you to. A huge, huge mistake. Les — you’re delivering pizza ? Aren’t you a little embarrassed, at your age, to be a delivery boy for a girl who doesn’t want to possess you?

you shoulda walked

What you should have done when you bumped into Erin was start making time with your female friend. “I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you kiss me in front of her,” you should have offered your gal-pal. Know why these encounters are so draining? Because you’re not prepared for them. Like my cousin Fast Eddie Love says, “Keep it fun and keep it light. And never, ever let ’em know they got to you!” You have to be on top of your game at all times, buddy.

Unfortunately, Erin doesn’t give a hoot, Les. Until she’s crying on your doorstep for you to take her back, she’s got all the clarity she needs. How many times do I have to tell you guys — the woman only cares about her feelings? In her mind that’s all that counts.

She’s extending an olive branch, you say? They’re Molotov cocktails she’s hurling at you, man! Can’t you tell the difference? Jeez, you’d have better luck negotiating with Fidel Castro! Inconsistent actions, you say? Wrong! She’s very consistent. She said she needed her freedom and she’s not in your arms! Sounds totally consistent to me.

The best thing for you to do now, Les, is block Erin’s incoming e-mail. If she calls you on the phone and you accidentally pick up, say, “How have you been, baby? Look, I’d like to talk to you, but my date’s in the bathroom. But I want you to know something. She doesn’t mean a thing to me. You know you’re the one. So keep in touch…” Click . Then go back to reading the Bible.

Remember guys; when it’s over, leave first.