Hi, genies here. I had a good conversation on Twitter recently where I basically just told a young guy some stuff about dating and and feelings and he listened. This was weird, because I thought “Man surely someone must have told you this before?” and eventually realised that no, probably nobody had ever told him it before in a way that he could listen to because everyone who would have told him it would have been shouting angrily and using technical jargon that immediately caused him to write it off. Sorry dude, the internet was failing you. 😦
Anyway, here’s some dating advice. It’s mostly meant for guys who want to date girls, and it’s kinda pitched assuming that you spend a lot of time on 4chan and reddit because that’s where the conversation that lead to this seemed to be coming from, but it’s hopefully pretty good advice for everyone.
Also it’s a bit of a giant meandering mess sorry writing is hard I prefer to shitpost but this seemed important.
Sorry yeah this is really long. Here’s the short version:
- Turn yourself into a project that you can work on and get better at, in ways that are going to help you date better but are good even if you don’t.
- Go to therapy. It’s much better than you’ve been told and it will probably help. This isn’t because you’re crazy or weak (no more than the rest of us) it’s because talking about your feelings with a professional who is there to help you out is really good and useful and almost everyone would benefit from it.
- Hug your friends. You’re probably starved for physical contact and it’s making you miserable and that makes everything worse.
This isn’t going to magically get you a date but it’ll put your brain in a much better place, and once you’re there dating gets way easier.
Most dating advice is shit and so is this
Basically the big problem with dating advice on the internet is that most of it falls into one of three categories:
- Bland drivel that doesn’t help anyone.
- You’re struggling to date because women are bitches! Here is how to be ALPHA and manipulate those bitches into sleeping with you!
- You’re struggling to date because you’re a horrible toxic man who doesn’t view women as people! Check your privilege and educate yourself by reading these seventeen books about how you’re a terrible person and then your dating problems will magically evaporate!
This advice is all shit and if you’ve read a lot of it, I’m sorry. It probably hurt you. Would you like a hug?
The big problem is that like 20% each of PUA/MRA/etc advice about dating is good and about 20% of feminist advice about dating is good and like 80% of each is kinda garbage and it’ll all make your life worse if you listen to it because either it won’t work or it’ll work in ways that mess you up worse.
I’m going to try and give you some dating advice that’s… hopefully a little less bad.
In a nutshell, my advice is this: if dating is a struggle, there’s probably some shit about yourself you need to work on. This is not a personal failing. Everyone has shit about themself they need to work on. Working on your shit is is how to be good at human, and is a sign of strength.
It’s likely that dating still won’t be super easy once you’ve sorted your shit out, because forming genuine human connections is really hard, but that means the worst case scenario is that you’ll have sorted your shit out, leaving you happier and healthier, and then you’ll be in a great position where you can try something else and see if it improves your dating prospects.
Whose fault is it anyway?
TLDR it’s society’s fault, but knowing that doesn’t help. You can blame society, and you’d be right to do so, and chances are good that you’ve got a bum deal, but there’s plenty of stuff you can do and you might as well do it.
The problem with blaming other people for your dating problems is that it’s a trap. Even if it’s true (it’s mostly not when it comes to blaming individual people, and only partly is when it comes to blaming society) it’s not under your control and will make you feel worse about the situation.
So whose fault is it that you’re having dating problems? Am I saying it’s your then? Eh, maybe, maybe not. It’s unlikely that you’re perfect, because you’re human, so it’s probably at least partly your fault, but who cares? It’s up to you to fix it regardless of whose fault it is.
The point is “Whose fault is it?” is not a useful question. You can blame people for your problems or you can roll up your sleeves and get to work on making your life better, and this is going to work regardless of whose fault it is.
How dating works
Everyone who dates successfully was lucky. They were in the right place at the right time and met the right person, and random chance is a huge factor in that. Some people are going to be luckier than you. That’s not fair, but I’m afraid it is how life works. Fortunately, luck is not the only important factor in dating, and you can work with luck to succeed.
The way to eventually succeed at any game of luck is simple: Give yourself lots of opportunities to be roll the dice, and increase the chances of you winning with each roll.
In dating, the way this works is to work on yourself to become someone who is more fun to be around (and, yes, more attractive. It’s important and you can and should work on that, but you’ll see more personal gains from the former) and less anxious around people and dating. The first will make people more likely to want to date you, the second will make it easier for you to find opportunities to date.
I mostly don’t recommend using online dating to find those opportunities. AFAICT it’s a reliably shit experience for most straight guys and will make you depressed (if you’re currently trying to use it and finding it depressing, don’t worry! That’s normal. Sorry). Instead, make friends, hopefully some of whom will be women, use them to make more friends. Go to parties, arrange group activities, etc. Find people you hit it off with, and then see if they’re interested in dating you.
It’s going to be a while before this works, which is why I recommend that everything you do to get better at dating should be something you’ll like or will be good for you regardless of whether it works for that.
The big reason why dating is hard for you is that it feels both urgent and terrifying. This creates a horrible scarcity situation where dating is scarce, so you get anxious when trying to do it, so you fuck it up, so dating gets even more scarce…
If you want to break out of this and get good at dating, you need to sort out these two core problems: You need to make dating less urgent, and you need to make it less terrifying.
To make it less urgent, you need to get better at not needing to date. More on that in a bit, but basically you’re trying to make dating do too much for you and you can fix that without dating. Weirdly, once you’ve done that, you’ll probably get more and better dates.
To make it less terrifying… You’re going to need to work on confidence, and a lot of that is just anxiety management and communication skills. PUA stuff will teach you how to just pretend you’re not anxious and push through, but this is shit advice – it’ll take you through shallow interactions and then leave you high and dry when you get to the actually good bits.
You’ve been given really bad advice about how to be a man.
You may have heard the term “toxic masculinity”. You probably got angry at the person who used it at you, and you were probably right to do so because they were using it to mean “men are toxic”. This is a shitty usage. But there’s also something to the idea: Many of the messages that society sends men about how to behave are toxic. Men aren’t toxic, men are being poisoned. A lot of bad dating advice for men tells you to drink more of the poison so you’ll feel better. This is dumb. Don’t do that.
Here’s some of the shit you get told about how to be a man:
- Having feelings, let alone talking about them, is weakness.
- As a man you must be strong and independent, and you have failed if you are not.
- Men are not attractive unless they’re in like the top 1% of male attractiveness.
- Physical contact is only for sex and competition.
- Men should dominate women.
(Not necessarily saying you buy into all of that – you might, you might not – but even if you’re definitely getting messaging about how you should buy into that, and probably feel bad when you fail to live up to it even if that’s mostly subconscious)
I’m now going to make some predictions about you.
- You’re angry and/or anxious a lot of the time.
- Being rejected feels awful.
- You are insecure about your appearance.
- You’ve hardly been touched recently, and would really like a hug.
- Many of your attempts at dating have been unpleasant and adversarial.
See the link?
Good news! You can just… not do that.
Bad news: fixing your brain is super hard work and isn’t going to happen overnight, and also some of these you’re going to need to get people around you on board.
At this point you’re probably thinking that I’m telling you not to be a man and to just go be a woman. Not so much. Consider the following alternate scripts:
- Men should be able to calmly and confidently talk about how they feel.
- Men help others, and are secure enough to ask for help when they need it.
- Men are attractive, and can present themselves in a way that appeals to women.
- Physical contact is a universal human need not tied to gender, and doesn’t have to be a big deal.
- Relationships are a partnership between equals, with each person contributing positively to the other’s life in their own way.
I’m not saying “these are the best scripts and you should definitely adopt them” but they’re a hell of a lot better than the standard ones.
I’m also not saying “women will fall at your feet and consider you the manliest of men if you follow these scripts”. Know what? Some women will indeed not respect you for talking about your feelings. It’s a thing. Women are just as involved (often more involved) in enforcing the social scripts as men are.
My main advice on what to do about that is don’t date those women. It’s bad for you, probably worse than being single. But if you really want to, you can focus on talking about feelings in your friendship with men.
But also… all of these things will make you way more confident in how you interact with people, and male confidence is both masculine and sexy.
Warning: Trap alert. Confidence isn’t just being a jackass. Jackasses are mostly insecure. Women can tell. So can men. They can tell because it’s really fucking obvious. Don’t just go out and try to project confidence, try to get to a point where you can actually feel confident. It’s better I promise.
“She reached down and picked a crab out of a bucket. As it came up it turned out that three more were hanging on to it. “A crab necklace?” giggled Juliet.Terry Pratchett, Unseen Academicals
“Oh, that’s crabs for you,” said Verity, disentangling the ones who had hitched a ride. “thick as planks, the lot of them. That’s why you can keep them in a bucket wihtout a lid. Any that tries to get out gets pulled back. yes, as thick as planks.”
There are basically two big things that stop men from fixing this:
One of these two is more under your control than others.
The crab bucket thing is a big problem… everywhere. Someone tries to change, and all their friends go “nooooo” because if they change then their friends will feel obliged to too.
- Stop being one of the crabs. If you see people changing, don’t pull them back down.
- This means mocking people less sorry I know it’s fun.
- Form a SUPER SECRET SELF DEVELOPMENT cabal. Find a small number of trusted friends and get them on board with talking about this stuff before you talk about it more broadly. Send them a link to this post if you think it’ll help.
Look feelings are really important and you’re stuck with them whether you like them or not. You might as well put some work into getting better at them.
Feelings are super integral to life – every time you want things, that’s a feeling. Anger and anxiety are feelings and you’re already full of them, so you might as well work on having a better mix.
A healthy and well managed set of feelings is an integral part of the human condition. Talking about your feelings is an essential part of that – you cannot properly manage your feelings solely in your own head.
You should get a therapist to help you with this. A therapist is basically a personal trainer for doing work with your feelings. There’s no shame in that. Feelings are difficult and consulting an expert on learning to be better at them is a great move.
Sure sex is great, but have you tried genuine connection?
Listening to the PUAs might get you laid, and I get that that sounds like a pretty big deal right now, but it won’t actually make you happy for two big reasons:
- Sex is way better once you’ve got to know someone and worked past your insecurities and get to explore all the fun bits.
- Most of the things you think sex is going to solve for you it’s not, and you’re better off trying to sort those things out without sex than putting so much pressure on sex to sort your life our for you.
PUA advice is OK for one night stands but it’s mostly shit advice for starting a relationship and relationships are way better than one night stands. People who tell you that they’re not are bad at relationships.
While I was writing this, rival voices did a tweet:
Sex is great. I’m not here to tell you sex is overrated, sex is not overrated. But if you’re obsessed with getting sex it’s probably because you’re using it as a substitute for something else you need more and figuring that out will make your life better and also will get you more and better sex.
The PUA way of doing sex seems… really sad. It doesn’t sound like they’re enjoying it very much and it flames out as soon as you try to actually be good at sex. Cannot recommend.
My advice is work on your appearance but don’t worry too much about whether it attracts the ladies (confidence again).
Get good at personal grooming. Get good at shaving, dress well, shower regularly, maybe go to the gym (I hate the gym personally, but a lot of dudes seem to really love to lift, so might as well find out if you’re one of them – being in shape will make you feel 1000x better about yourself and also looks good).
The Art of Manliness and r/malefashionadvice both seem to be pretty good resources on this. I’ve not spent much time on either because, well, but if this is something you’re working on they’re definitely the place to be.
The nice thing about treating your appearance as a project in and of itself separately from the question of dating is that it will help you work on your self image and feeling better about yourself, separately from the noisy feedback of dating. If you’re struggling to date it’s easy to conclude that this must be because you’re unattractive, which often isn’t true, so it’s helpful to try to get a good measure of your attractiveness independently of that.
A million words later here’s my advice on what you can actually do to start getting better at this:
- Get a therapist. Talk to them about your feelings. Feelings are good and therapists are personal trainers for feelings.
- Get a regular massage (I don’t mean “see a sex worker”. I literally mean go see someone to sort out the knots in your muscles, and to get some extra physical contact)
- Work on conversational skills. The therapist will help with this but I’ve got some books I’ll recommend too.
- Find some friends to work on this with. Hug them and talk to them about your feelings.
- Work on your appearance. It will make you feel better about yourself.
If you can afford it, I particularly recommend the therapist and the massages as a good starting point, because they’re easy ways to throw money at the problem. If you can’t afford it, I’ve got some book recommendations. I recommend the books even if you see the therapist and the masseur.
If you’re not exhausted by the number of words you’ve read here already, here are some books! I love books! Books will solve everything!
Here are some books I think will help improve your life:
“Models: Attract women through honesty” by Mark Manson is very good and has a lot of overlap with this post. I only read it after writing this, so it didn’t really inform anything I said here, but it’s a good complement to all this with a bit of a different spin and more focused in actual dating advice.
“100 truths you will learn too late” by Luca Dellanna is a great book about personal development. If you want to get better at just about anything this is the book for you.
“The Customer Service Survival Kit” is kinda cheesy and if you’re not American you might find it obnoxious but it’s a great primer on how to talk to people empathetically. “The Communication Book: 44 Ideas for Better Conversations Every Day” by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler is less detailed but covers a lot of different communication skills.
“cPTSD from surviving to thriving” by Pete Walker. This book is… a lot. If you’ve got a bad relationship with your parents I particularly recommend it (regardless of whether you think that relationship is abusive). If you’re angry and anxious a lot of the time just go read this book. Otherwise… maybe? Definitely read it if you’re not going to go down the therapist route.
“Focusing” by Eugene Gendlin will teach you a great technique for debugging feelings. Warning: Chapter 1 sounds like an invitation to join a cult. Don’t join a cult. You won’t like it.
bell hooks’s “All About Love” is a lovely little book about connection and intimacy and how to form the sort of relationships that will actually make your (and everyone else’s) lives better. You may not like it, but this is what peak performance looks like.