Dear Lovehacker, I am an 18-year-old homeschooled Christian who has never dated anyone before. In recent years, I’ve had a secret crush on a certain girl (I’ll refer to her as “L”). We’ve known each other since we were little grade school kids and we grew up as friends.
Everything seemed nice and rosy up until middle school. That’s when L took a turn for the worse (behaviourally and morally). She called stupid the idea of waiting until marriage to have sex, something which utterly contradicts what I believe as a Christian, according to the Bible. Although I still liked L, it saddened me deeply to learn of her new viewpoints.
Things hadn’t gotten much better in the years to come. She succumbed to the flirtations of other guys without restraint, going along with anything just to be given attention (all while I watched on dejectedly). She’s even casually dropped a couple f-bombs when sharing with me some mildly bothersome experiences from school. Despite all these metaphorical daggers being inadvertently stabbed into my heart through the years, I’ve still had a crush on her, and somehow kept alive a faint glimmer of hope. My heart has refused to acknowledge that the way things are now is how they will be forevermore.
First of all, I don’t even fully understand why I have a crush on someone I know has plenty of significant faults. The only explanation I have construed is the element of time — that we’ve known each other for at least a decade. And maybe that we share a lot of similar interests. Other than that, I’m clueless.
And as for the dating situation: like I said, I have never dated anyone yet. I have been cautious and vigilant in whom I’d even consider as a potential date. Any fault I’d see would be a turnoff, and I just couldn’t seem to gain any ground.
I have had an idealistic perspective on dating in general. My dream is to marry my first date; I want to make it count. I want to be able to say I have never dated anyone before I would have met my future wife. Please tell me honestly… is this a reasonable notion to hold on to? What advice would you have in regards to L? Could (or should) there ever evolve something more in our relationship, or should I keep out? I appreciate your time in reading my letter, and all your advice. Thank you, Drowning in Befuddlement
OK, there’s a lot to unpack here, but before we get too deep into things we’re gonna need to have a little talk about reasonable expectations. Because right now, you’re setting yourself up for major disappointments.
You want your first girlfriend to be your only girlfriend. OK. Cool. It’s good to want things. Let us start with the fact that this is vanishingly unlikely to happen. I can count the number of people I know who married their high school sweethearts on the fingers of one hand with enough spares left over for the rings of every human Green Lantern. You have better odds of winning the lottery and getting a Mondo poster than you have of making this happen.
Why? Because humans have agency. Even if you’re radically committed to making this happen no matter what, there’s no way to ensure that your future theoretical girlfriend isn’t going to be the one to dump your butt. Even if you scour the earth and find someone who’s on the exact same page as you on this “first time/only time” issue — and at that point you’re basically down to whichever of the Duggar girls are still single — people change as they grow. What seems impossible to you now becomes very plausible in a year, two years, three. Hell, my whole career is based on doing things that I thought were impossible when I was your age.
But ignoring the likelihood of things, let’s look at the more practical side of why this tends to be a bad idea. Let us start with the simple matter of finding someone who’s right for you. Yes, I know you have a checklist of things you want in a potential mate. What you want and what you’re actually compatible with are often two very different things… and you will almost never find this out until you get the shit kicked out of your expectations by the hobnailed Boot of Reality. Sexual compatibility, for example, is something that destroys many relationships. If you and your future spouse aren’t compatible sexually, then you’re going to be miserable. Right now, all you have is theory and supposition about what you want and how things are going to work. But theory without testing — and no, masturbation doesn’t count for these purposes — is functionally useless.
That theory vs experience issue will also affect who you think you’re attracted to and why. Take, for example, the trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She represents the common mistake guys make: Expecting a partner to fix some lack they see in themselves. She’s there to Make Men Better rather than to be a person with her own wants and dreams. Almost every guy falls for this trope until they get some real dating experience under their belts and realise the things they think make an MPDG desirable would drive them crazy in short order because life isn’t a movie. The stolid, unimaginative man isn’t going to be happy when his impulsive, excitable girlfriend is constantly changing plans or making last minute decisions, after all…
Similarly, dating experience helps you learn how to recognise bad situations and weed out partners who might be toxic for you. That person whose life seems so exciting and dramatic is often also the person who depends upon you having poor boundaries. That relationship that seems too good to be true? Yes, it in all likelihood is too good, but you’ll be so excited by her drama that you’ll miss the warning signs.
Then there’s the fact that relationship maintenance is a skill, and one that’s developed through deliberate practise. Once you get out of the initial honeymoon stage, you’re suddenly going to be faced with the reality of trying to make your life mesh as seamlessly as possible with another person’s, and that’s going to cause you a lot of headaches over the years. Part of the benefit of having dated around means that you learn far more about keeping a relationship alive and happy, instead of trying to get it right the first time.
So no, I don’t think that trying to ensure your first girlfriend is your only girlfriend is a good idea. I think it’s unworkable at best and a recipe for misery at worst. If you want to take a swing at that… well, cool. You do you. Just realise you will be narrowing your dating pool to single digits.
But I don’t think that’s the main issue we need to deal with here. That issue is your friend and the way you talk about her.
I think it’s time for you to take a seat and brace yourself because it’s time to meet the Chair Leg of Truth. Quite frankly: You’re being a dick to someone you call a friend. You’ve got one doozie of a Madonna-Whore complex rolling around in your brain and you’re spending a lot of time getting caught up in the mote in your neighbour’s eye.
Let’s be real here: Your continuing crush on L isn’t continuing “despite” her “flaws” — more on that in a second — it’s because you want to bang her. Your pain isn’t because of her, it’s because you won’t acknowledge your feelings for her conflict with your attitude towards women and sex and you’re blaming her for not conforming to your vision.
After all, L was great as long as she was your perfect virgin. Now that she’s had the temerity to grow up in ways you don’t approve of, you’re apparently comfortable doing a shitload of judging on things that you have neither the experience nor the perspective to judge. And while I’m no Biblical scholar, I seem to recall Jesus having some fairly decisive words on who gets to do the judging.
I notice, for example, that L seems to have lost all agency in her own life; she didn’t decide to date someone, maybe even sleep with them because she’s a person with a sex drive and because she may have wanted to share intimacy with someone she loved. According to you, she “succumbed to his flirtations” for “attention” as you were helpless to stop her. Which, y’know, is a lovely attitude for someone who seems a bit more pissed that his own pants-feels are going unrequited and is choosing to blame the “slut” instead.
Disagreeing with you on religion, having sex, swearing… those aren’t personality flaws. They’re things that you might not be able to handle, but they’re not “flaws”. All that’s going on here is that you’re using them as a way to justify seeing her as lesser. That slut-shaming attitude you’re carrying around, whether you realise it or not, is part of what leads to a lot of pain and misery in the world; after all, she brought it on herself. She’s a slut. She’s trash. She’s immoral. But hey: Let he with two free hands cast the first stone.
You want to deal with your feelings for L? Then it’s time to accept the truth: You want her. You may not like that you want her, but that’s your problem, not hers. She had sex. Get over it. She doesn’t agree with you on religion. Get over it.
You want to call her your friend? Then get over her supposed “flaws” and start being able to accept her as a person.
You want to have better odds of finding someone who might be willing to date you in the first place, never mind marry you, and make that relationship work? Then you need to remember that Jesus’ best friends were lepers, tax collectors and prostitutes. The vulgar, the crude, the apostates and the sexually “immoral”. The point of Christianity isn’t “ha ha, you’re a sinner and I’m better than you,” it’s to love others as they are, without reservation and without judgement.
Until then? Jerk off and wait for things to fade. And if you can’t stop obsessing about her “flaws”, put some distance between the two of you. She needs a better friend than you’re capable of being.
This story originally appeared on Kotaku.
Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr NerdLove.