Dear Lovehacker, I'm a 26-year-old male virgin with no real relationship experience. I guess I have never been interested in one-night stands, preferring sex with someone I feel a genuine connection to. I've subsequently never made a proactive effort to lose my virginity and this lack of experience has made me feel concerned about my ability to find and maintain a successful relationship. I worry I won't know what the hell I am doing.
Back in April of 2015, I decided to give some of the online dating apps a shot, and I ended up meeting about 15 women during the course of the four to five months I used these apps. However, only about six or seven of them wanted to go on second dates, and I only went on a third date with one of them. She then decided to end things on the fourth date through indirect signals as opposed to just talking to me about it, which led me to wonder what I might have done wrong (she never actually told me what happened, we just parted ways).
I ultimately ceased using the apps to focus more on my last year of law school, but now that school is over I am thinking about how I want to resume these efforts. The obvious problem is that I have no idea what to do and am discouraged from doing anything because I don't want to go through this much rejection all over again. Not helping matters is that I live with my brother, who has been going on dates and has had better luck on the first date alone. I admit I am not someone who aims for sex on the first date, but I also can't help but feel a little jealous given my situation.
Since I've never really dated anyone exclusively before, I feel like whenever I try to date someone, I am uncertain and insecure about what to do, which may hinder my efforts. I know I want to find a serious relationship, but I am pessimistic about my chances of finding one. I just do not know how to approach this matter. I feel like the problem lies in both my lack of experience and my mindset toward the situation, because I know this bothers me way more than it should. What do you think I should do? Thanks, Confused and Looking for Love
I think you have one big stumbling block here... and that's your virginity. It's not the problem; at least, not the way you think it is.
To you, your being a virgin is like a giant neon sign, a scarlet 'V' blinking overhead. It's an indicator of someone who's managed to miss out on his window and now he's screwed because who could possibly want somebody who's still a virgin at his age? That big ol' V is symbolic of everything you should already have figured out by now and the life that you think you should be having but aren't.
The thing is though: Your virginity is pretty much irrelevant to most of this. The bullshit stigma that you're feeling about your lack of experience - and the narrative of How To Be A Man that tells you that you should be knee-deep in vagina right now - is throwing you off. You're letting being a virgin psych you out and it's giving you a distorted view of what dating is like.
Let's take your experience with dating apps as an example. Meeting 15 women in the span of four months is a pretty respectable ratio; that's around a date a week. The fact that more than half wanted a second date is, again, pretty damn good; that's a rate of more than 50 per cent. You're doing far better than you realise, with a success ratio that a lot of people would envy.
Did you get a girlfriend out of it? No… but that doesn't mean you weren't doing well. Dating, and online dating in particular, is a game of numbers. You're going to have a lot of false-positives - people who seem appealing on paper at first, but that you don't click with once you spend time with them. You're going to have dates that go nowhere and dates where one of you decides to give the other a second date just in case but realise that it's not going to work. Rejection, as much as it may sting at first, is part of the game. Welcome to dating; wear a helmet.
But here's the thing: Rejection may suck, but it only has to suck as much as you let it. Not investing in the importance of each individual date at the get-go is key. That first date is like the first audition; you're trying to see whether this person's worth making it to the next round. If they're not… OK, cool, there're others out there, time to go see how they stack up. I can count the number of people who've ended up in long-term relationships with the first person they ever dated on the fingers of one foot.
Your brother probably has more dating success because he goes on a lot of dates. Like shooting a shotgun, the more lead you throw out there, the more likely you are to hit something. Go on a lot of dates, you're more likely to find people who're worth dating - or, in your brother's case, who're up for sex on the first date.
Yeah, you're not entirely sure what you're doing. Neither is 99 per cent of the population. Every first date is a lot of fumbling in the dark and feeling around, trying to see how much of you meshes up with how much of them. The less you worry about being perfect and more just about trying to connect with them, the better you'll do.
In short, put yourself out there and go on more dates. That's how you build your experience points. You'll find your success rate will go up and find the people who you're compatible with. And of those, you'll find someone that you have a genuine connection with, along with everything that comes with that.
This story originally appeared on Kokatu.
Harris O'Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove.