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Dawn Of The Dud

I'm a 31-year-old guy who’s just about given up on dating. My last girlfriend was desperately needy. She’d make me go to the store with her, and when I went to work, she’d hang out in my office all day. (She wanted to sit on my lap and talk to me while I worked.) It drove me nuts, so we split a couple months ago. The girlfriend before her couldn't stop going on and on about the details of her sex life with her former boyfriend. I can’t seem to pick a winner. I think it’s due to one of three things: 1) I’m attracted to girls with serious issues. 2) All girls are like that. 3) My standards are way too high. I’d love to have a girlfriend who doesn’t have big issues, and who has friends, hobbies and goals beyond the relationship. Is that the impossibility it seems to be?

--Flailing Around In the Dating Pool

So, the last girl in your life not only went to the office with you but sat on your lap while you worked? Wait…you were dating a Chihuahua? Let’s just hope she was woman enough to do her business in the ladies room instead of on Wee-Wee Pads under the conference table.

This girlfriend was the replacement for Lady Overshare, sexual historian: “We interrupt this relationship to bring you the nude stylings of Lincoln And His Log.” And interrupt, and interrupt, and interrupt. Nothing like a woman who gets a guy all fired up to dash past the sexy underwear store to the pet store to buy her a muzzle.

Dating can be challenging for a man with standards. The thing about standards is that you can’t just leave them on the fake fireplace with your frat boy beer stein collection. You actually have to take them with you and hold them up to women you meet. Sure, you can say you want a girlfriend with goals, hobbies, and a self, but you seem to go for any woman who doesn’t have gills. Then, instead of taking responsibility for what you let into your life, you reach for ego shelters like “Maybe I’m just hot for the nutty ones,” “All girls are like that,” or “I’m just too good for this world.” In the words of my late pal Al (therapist Albert Ellis), “The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny.”

Mistakes do happen. If you make one, admit it, don’t take it to the movies every Saturday night. To catch your mistakes, pay attention to what a woman says and does, and what she seems to want from you. Take the girl who couldn’t stop clucking about what a blast she had in the past. You should’ve asked yourself, “Hey, Self, doesn’t she seem less interested in me as a boyfriend than as a big, warm ear?” You ask questions like this not only when you first meet somebody, but as the relationship goes on: Is she up to your standards? Is she still up to your standards? And while you’re at it, are your standards up to your standards, or are they in need of an upgrade, too? Yes, you actually can have a goal-oriented girlfriend with a job, hobbies, and friends -- just stop settling for the girl whose goal is never leaving your side (although she might make an exception when you have to use the urinal).

Posted by aalkon at January 30, 2008 12:06 AM


Well said, Amy. In addition, maybe the LW could take a little longer for a dating relationship to develop into a "girlfriend" relationship. Give the bad habits a chance come out before things get serious -- it's much easier to break off a casual relationship than a serious one.

These last two lemons should never have made it to girlfriend status in the first place.

Posted by: Pussnboots [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 29, 2008 9:31 PM

Yep. I forget who said this, but I try to live by it: "Never settle. When you settle for less than you deserve, you get less than what you settled for." YMMV

Posted by: Flynne [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 5:29 AM

"These last two lemons should never have made it to girlfriend status in the first place."


Posted by: Snoop-Diggity-DANG-Dawg [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 6:06 AM

What the LW is looking for is reasonable but I'm surprised he hasn't mentioned physical standards.
I can think of only one guy friend who has NO physical standards (that I can observe), and he's really freaking lazy in that the girls must approach him. His current girl is a solid combination of the 2 women described by the letter writer with a few other nasty features thrown in.

Make sure what you want is what you actually want, then figure out if your going to get it. If you are 40+ with a beer gut, bald and have bad halotosis you are not going to bag a 20 year old coed unless she has issues, really serious ones. Or she's a gold digger and you happen to be her definition of loaded. Now if you are a 40+ Pierce Brosnin (sp) or a 70 yo Sophia Loren (she looks like a slightly seasoned yet yummy 50) that's a totally different story.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 6:13 AM

Wise words, vlad.

and he's really freaking lazy in that the girls must approach him.

That's got to work really well for him. The column for a coming week deadline is on that topic.

Posted by: Amy Alkon [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 6:40 AM

Snoop, that was me some years ago. I'd get involved in some relationship, it would deteriorate, there would be a nasty breakup, and I'd be left wondering what I did wrong. But looking back on it now, I realize that in almost every such case, what I did wrong was getting involved in the first place. I too was too willing to "settle"; because of various issues I had during my teenage years, I simply didn't believe I could do any better.

When I finally decided to raise my standards, that's when my luck started changing. Now, the first relationship I had after that wasn't "the one", but it did turn out to be a worthwhile relationship and when it ended, we parted on good terms. It took a while before I did meet "the one", but in the meantime, I had a pretty good time with a few women that I would never have approached previously. It really changed my outlook towards women in general, which was something that needed to happen before I could commit myself to a long-term relationship.

Now mind you, you can't hold potential partners to any standard that's higher than the standard to which you hold yourself. That was the other thing I had to do -- improve several things about myself: my appearance, my social skills, my housekeeping, my general attitude. One of the things that really impressed me about the woman who is now my wife was that she also held herself to high standards. And 14 years later, she still does.

Posted by: Cousin Dave [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 7:37 AM

Let's see, the guy consistently picks losers and he wonders if his standards are too high? The high standards by which he picks the losers? Maybe he should get a new set of standards without any input from Mr. Happy. Or, perhaps he should expand his dating circle beyond strip clubs and "last call".

Frankly, his best bet would be to casually mention to his female friends (or co-workers) that he's had terrible luck finding a GF and let them winnow the pool. Nobody IDs loser GF material faster than another woman.

Posted by: Curly Smith at January 30, 2008 7:49 AM

What a pussy.

Lots of guys seem to have trouble telling women "no." As in, "No. Your attentions are kind, but you're not my type." Or, "No. I don't do escort duty for your tampon purchases."

Men think a constant stream of 'yes' words is a requirement of getting laid, or even a requirement of romance. Women encourage men's sycophancy by dressing up the vice in fancy words: "chivalry" and "gentlemanliness" and "sensitive" and "attentive."

The best defense against a needy sot, a ball-busting bitch, a professional dater, a man-hater --- or any other unwanted female vice --- is your right elbow. Politely escort the loser to the curb.

Then get a better one.

Posted by: Jeff at January 30, 2008 8:09 AM

It's not you dude, they are all crazy.

Posted by: cybro at January 30, 2008 8:14 AM

"That's got to work really well for him." Her nick name is Jaba the Slut, so yeah it's worked GREAT for him. She's the worst in a LONG line of crazy nut bags. Most in their own way were off the mark by a wide margin. One of them was guilty of being self centered to a ludicrous level, a level I really doubted I'd see outside a nut house.

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 8:23 AM

Maybe if this guy had the guts to set some boundaries and actually, , ,oh I don't know, , ,communicate with his girlfriends he would have found out one of them might have listened and been worth keeping around.

He sounds like he was being lazy and wasn't interested enough to solve the problem, he just removed it (which I guess is better than keeping it around). If I had a boyfriend that constantly talked about past loves I'd tell him "stop making yourself sound like a whore" and maybe he'd shut up about it ;)

Posted by: rosebud at January 30, 2008 8:25 AM

If you are consistently having failures then you are consistently failing to learn from them. There's no point in repeating your actions again and again, and expecting the outcome to be different.

Posted by: Norman [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 8:27 AM

...repeating your actions again and again, and expecting the outcome to be different.

Isn't this the definition of insanity? o_O

Posted by: Flynne [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 8:36 AM

This reminds of George Burns' advice on how to have a happy marriage, "Marry Gracie." There's something to be said for that kind of thinking.

Posted by: Shawn at January 30, 2008 8:38 AM

"He sounds like he was being lazy and wasn't interested enough to solve the problem, he just removed it " And how do you propose he solve the co-dependent women who went to work with him? What would your reaction be if the guy you called a whore didn't stop?

Posted by: vlad [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 8:42 AM

Too many people approach dating like they need a Christmas present and it's the afternoon of Dec 24. They are so desperate for a relationship that they just grab the first thing they see that looks halfway decent.

Be happy with yourself and before you get involved with someone, ask yourself if this is really going to make your life better. If you're wasting your time with MR./Mrs. Wrong, you won't be available when Mr./Mrs Right comes along.

Posted by: Steamer at January 30, 2008 8:43 AM

They are so desperate for a relationship that they just grab the first thing they see that looks halfway decent.

It's the rejection thing. Men take most of the social and financial risk in dating. Men are publicly rejected by women -- a lot. Some guys get gun shy, and will do almost anything to avoid public rejection. In sales, it's called "Call Reluctance." In dating, it's called being a wimp.

The wimp fixates on one woman because he fears the cesspool of rejection he has to wade through to get another one.

There's nothing for it. If you're going through hell, keep going! There are too many decent women out there to get stuck on one needy bitch, one bossy bitch, or any bitch whatsoever.

Posted by: Jeff [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 9:01 AM

Sound advice!

If you are a magnet for crazy people and attracting undesirable people, there's a reason! Find out what it is. Ask your friends to be honest with you (chances are they've noticed it). For example: if you are the type to immediately offer to buy a girl a drink before telling her your name and immediately ask her for her number so you can invite her to the most expensive place in town you will end up with NEEDY WOMEN who "need to be taken care of." Healthy women would find this behavior awkward/uncomfortable.
If you walk up to women and immediately start complimenting them ("you're the most beautiful woman here/I've been staring at you all night getting up the courage to come talk to you") you will end up with LOW-SELF-ESTEEM GIRLS who CRAVE that kind of attention. Healthy women will just assume you're full of bull and run.

The lesson: pay close attention to the things you do when you're out meeting women.

Posted by: sofar [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 9:30 AM

Ohhh! I love that line, Flynne.

Posted by: kg [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 9:54 AM

How do you have your girlfriend come to your office and sit on your lap during work hours - and not get fired? I work in a pretty easy-going office, but even here they frown on that sort of thing. Where does this guy work?

Posted by: Conan the Grammarian at January 30, 2008 10:00 AM

People are stupid.

Women are bitches.

Men are assholes.

Repeat this mantra as your daily defamation. Once it takes, you'll find that you'll never be disappointed with anyone's idiotic behavior, but be able to nod and smile as it's expected of them. You'll not only be less bitter and angry, but genuinely pleased when you meet someone who is an exception to this rule.

I'm being sarcastic, but only slightly.

With regards to LW, he should consider whether or not the lemons he's been dating lately have a number of things in common - and if so, if those things in common should be "red flags" for him from this point forward. It's possible that his "standards" are prioritized such that he has a knack for finding whackjobs, thus why he doesn't complain about their other jobs until they prove they're psychotically clingy. You don't just need a list of what you DO want, it helps to decide on what you DON'T want as well.

I dated one psycho. After that was over, I readjusted my priorities and tended to avoid any woman that showed any traits that were in common with the negative ones she had. Resulted in much healthier relationships.

Posted by: Jamie [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 10:01 AM

One of my favorite quotes of all time "Pets are God's way of saying 'Don't lower the bar just because you're lonely'" (From He's just not that into you) I guess it works better if you believe in God, but the essential point is the same.

Posted by: Shinobi [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 30, 2008 10:09 AM

I know from experience exactly what this LW is dealing with. The problem is not the women (not saying that these women don't have problems.) The problem is low self-confidence or the inability to be alone while looking for someone who meets your standards.

Standards don't just mean attractiveness or the ability to stay out of your lap at work. I know many women who don't have anything wrong with them but aren't a good fit for me personally. These are the ones I have had problems with. They are good people, generally emotionally secure and usually easy to date. Spending time with them causes emotional attachment and because they don't do psycho things there is no great impetus to ditch them. Next thing you know you are in a long relationship that you are OK with but not excited about where its going but having a hard time justifying ending because the girl is a quality person that you have a strong loving attachment to them.

So, 1) figure out what you really want, 2) go after that, 3) when you are afraid to go after that figure out what is wrong with you 4) fix that 5) repeat steps 1 -4.

Posted by: Dale at January 30, 2008 10:59 AM

Or he can just accept that some people were meant to be alone.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at January 30, 2008 12:41 PM

Heard on old sitcom:

Old bisexual woman: "I've been with men and I've been with women, and in my opinion they deserve each other!"

Posted by: lordsomber at January 30, 2008 4:56 PM

I guess I think the LW probably SHOULD give up on dating, at least for a while. I've been in his shoes before - dated a string of jerks and got tired of it. There really are only so many disappointing, negative experiences you can have in a row before it starts to get you down. So I quit telling myself I had to "get back on the horse" and gave myself permission to forget the whole thing for a while.

No I didn't start hating on men - I have way too many cool guy friends for that. And I didn't become bitter or cynical about love, or think it would never happen to me. But after enough immature jackasses and liars, dating just wasn't fun anymore. And it's supposed to be fun, right? Isn't that pretty much the whole reason for doing it in the first place? You can love chocolate pie, but if you ate a slice (or two) that gave you food poisoning, wouldn't you be off the chocolate pie for a while?

The trick is not to walk around all grumpy and bitter about it. Don't look at it like that. Don't be all "I'm never going to date again!" and expect anyone to care or feel sorry for you. Take the attitude that "I tried this, got tired of it, so now I'm taking a break from it for a while and am FREE to enjoy other things!" The idea isn't that you swear off dating FOREVER, because duh, who really does that? Just swear it off for a little while, if it's getting you down too much.

Give this guy a break - he's getting out there and meeting people, and some of the people he's met have been disappointing. Come on, like it hasn't happened to everyone single one of us? So maybe he does need to take some time off from dating. No one should do it because they feel like they have to.

I think my "break" from dating lasted about eight months. The first thing that struck me was how much more free time I had without a boyfriend. I filled that time up accomplishing some goals for myself that I hadn't quite gotten around to, and spent more time with friends. It was worth it!

Posted by: Pirate Jo at January 31, 2008 8:37 AM

Here's the advice I gave my 13-year-old son a couple of days ago: A relationship should be the cherry on the cake of your life, it should not be the cake. It's why I'm still happily with my husband closing in on 15 years - we actually like each other and we have friends and interests outside of each other and our children.

As for the all men are assholes and all women are bitches post, that's just sad. If you go through life with that attitude, I guarantee you'll meet lots of bitches and assholes. Whatever you expect to get out of life is what you'll get. Take some responsibility for your choices in life for christ's sake.

Posted by: Angela [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 31, 2008 10:47 AM

Come on, like it hasn't happened to everyone single one of us?

Except me, I suppose. But then technically I guess I've never really "dated", per se. I've really only ever gotten involved with people I had already known for some time, and then only after a stringent battery of IQ tests and graded personality assessments.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at January 31, 2008 10:23 PM

He has to learn how to be a good judge of character, and see what these women are all about when he's on his initial dates. It sounds like he just wants to buy now, and ask questions later, probably because he has low self-esteem.

I took a break from dating when I got to the burnout phase, because I wanted it to be fun. Then when I was ready, I dated again. It's not supposed to be a job that you hate.

Posted by: Chrissy at February 2, 2008 4:37 PM

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