Dating Advice: I Like Nerdy Guys, But They Don’t Like Me.


I am in dire need of your wise advice. My self esteem keeps taking a fantastic header over and over again and it’s starting to get frustrating. While I was blaming the guys, I’m starting to wonder what’s wrong with me.Here’s the scenario: I’m attracted to the kind of guy who’s… well, nerdy. The kind who’d prefer to stay home on Friday night than be out “living it up”. But of course these types are also usually virgins, or guys who’ve not had any real relationships. That’s not the problem though. These guys are always posting in dating forums and on their own journals about how they can’t meet a girl, and they’ve never (or rarely) had a girlfriend, because girls don’t like nerds, and they don’t initiate the first email, and they don’t respond to their emails, blah blah blah. Yet, when I email these guys, I either get no response or I get one of those responses that are obviously just them trying to be polite… and then they go back to complaining that girls don’t message them. I’m no super model, but I’m decent looking and I always fit, personality-wise, what the guy says he wants in his profile. It’s frustrating that a guy who can’t otherwise get a girlfriend doesn’t even want to talk to me online. Is there something I’m doing wrong? Am I chasing the wrong guys? Are they just hypocrites? And how does a girl keep this from bursting her self esteem every single time it happens? Patti

The people I like don’t like me. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Dear Patti, You’ve pretty much summed up the dating process: The people I like don’t like me. Wash, rinse, repeat. Our entire single lives are spent rejecting people who like us, and chasing people who don’t. It can be, suffice to say, exhausting and emotionally draining. Especially when you’re doing your best and asking tough questions like: ‘What can I do differently?’Alas, I don’t have a magic bullet for you. You sound bright, self-aware, and personable. You sound like you value an underappreciated portion of the population: nerds. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few nerds reading this want to figure out how to contact you). But that doesn’t solve your problem. It’s really difficult to feel like you’re doing the right thing and not get any results. Like dieting and exercising without losing weight, it makes you say, ‘What’s the point?’Without talking to you or evaluating your online dating profile, it’s impossible for me to tell you specifically what you’re doing wrong. What I can say definitively is that there is some sort of disconnect between how you see yourself and how these guys see you. Don’t take that too harshly: we ALL have a disconnect between our private vision of ourselves and others’ perception of us. This is not to say that nerds are above hypocrisy. They can state all day long about how they’re looking for someone to watch Battlestar Galactica and play Xbox with them, but, like most guys, they’re powerless in the face of a Maxim model.

Like millionaires (workaholics), tall, hot guys (narcissists), and brilliant men (stubborn, arrogant and neurotic), nerds are going to have their downside, too.

And, as I think this through, I would guess that this is going to be your biggest uphill climb. Guys who’ve been around the block, like yours truly, eventually, HOPEFULLY, come to the conclusion that it’s not all about initial attraction. Guys who have no experience with women have nothing BUT their fantasies. And if they’re picturing Tricia Helfer or Jeri Ryan or Olivia Munn as their dream partner, well, then, a cool down-to-earth chick like you doesn’t stand a chance. But you can’t control that. All you can do is be aware of it: you’re dealing with adult men who revel in adolescent behavior (sorry, nerds). Like millionaires (workaholics), tall, hot guys (narcissists), and brilliant men (stubborn, arrogant and neurotic), nerds are going to have their downside, too. As to your flurry of questions at the end of your post: you should not let your esteem get battered in online dating. There’s way too much volume to take any interaction personally. Approach it with the same detachment as buying a lottery ticket, and you’ll have a lot more fun. And whether you are coming across well in your photos, profile and emails, my guess is that, if you’re like most people, you can stand to use some improvement. I can’t tell you how many people are convinced that they’re doing a good job in online dating until they talk to me. It’s like being blind, until a friend lets you try on her glasses, or being a smart kid who finally took an SAT prep class. Which is why, if you really want to improve every aspect of how you’re dating online, I’d highly recommend It is literally the only system in existence that answers every single online dating question you have, including how to deal with rejection, self-esteem, profiles, emails and everything in between. Please come back and let me know how it goes.

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  1. 21

    Re: people being not unhappy in Eastern marriages in the olden days…isn’t it possible that a person could be unhappy, but since there is no option, one’s happiness or unhappiness is not even worth considering? If there’s no field on the other side of the fence, it doesn’t matter whether or not the grass there is greener than the one on your side.

  2. 22

    @ Joe, #21 – That’s how I’d read it, too. I know my parents’ generation (I’m 30) and earlier didn’t really ever ask themselves whether their jobs provided them with personal satisfaction and enrichment. My dad just found a job that he was capable of that paid a decent salary and did it. I never heard him talk about loving his job, and I think he thinks I’m a bit weird for getting a PhD “just” so I could find work that interests me, but I never heard him complain about his job, either. Nowadays we expect to have it all – which is possible, but takes a lot more work and initiative and compromise than people realize.

  3. 23

    Nerds are appealing because they are interested in something besides money, sex, and themselves. They might be delighted by philosophy, physics, astronomy, engineering, biology, math…

    I am strongly attracted to people – both men AND women – who have a passionate interest and aptitude in an intellectual or artistic field.

    That said, you can’t date a nerd and expect your relationship to be the same as “normal” relationships, or those depicted in the mainstream media. Nerds usually don’t conform. If you’re fine with nonconformity, you will have no problem dating a nerd.

    Every single man I dated in the past was a nerd. My husband is a nerd. I am a nerd. Now our kids will (ideally) have their PhDs before having sex. 🙂 (Just kidding!)

  4. 24

    She sounds extraverted. It also sounds as though she wants an introvert more than a “nerd” per se. It’s possible that the typical man of either group usually is put off by outgoing women. Regardless, maybe she should judge the way women usually do (and contrary to old beliefs) – on looks, but not on stereotypes, say, “nerdy-looking”. A man with decent, maybe slightly unusual style who radiates a sort of quiet warmth might be her best option.

  5. 25

    I think your troubles reflect the flaws of the men you’re pursuing, rather than a problem with your appearance, approach, or character. I love classic literature, keg stands, MMORPG’s, clubbing, scientific theory (esp. quantum mechanics), science fiction (esp. quantum mechanics), house parties, Dungeons and Dragons, bars, movies, museums, traveling to major cities and seeing everything possible in a weekend, etc. I think a person’s “nerdiness” shouldn’t effect their social skills and their zest for life.

    I look at shut in nerds the same way I look at monosyllabic frat boys. Their life lacks balance. I learned that early on. I spent early high school with my nose in the books and video games. I spent late high school stoned and drunk, continually partying. By the time I made it to college I managed to have the time of my life and still pass my classes.

    It sounds like you’re not looking for someone who’s “nerdy”, it sounds like you’re looking for people who have problems relating to and interacting with others, and who lack a general passion for life. That doesn’t sound like a fun relationship to me.

  6. 26

    Robert #25- I would have to agree with “Their life lacks balance.” Too much of anything is bad! Even things labelled as “good for you.” There should be a healthy balance. Being nerdy is totally fine, obviously, but I don’t know how great it would be to date someone that introverted. Dated a nerd before, by every aspect of the definition, and it’s not all it’s built up to be. I know that sounds mean, but really they’re so clueless in the dating game. The date I went on consisted of me asking questions about him and him talking about himself the entire time. Since he didn’t know how to date(by that I mean know how to make conversation, which he had no CLUE how to go about it… AT ALL), he stared blankly back at me. I’m not saying they’re all like that, but if you think he’s introverted and nerdy there’s a pretty darn good chance that’s how he might be. Having a date like the one I just desrcibed doesn’t really give you a good look at how a second date might be. Just another observation. I’m not going to tell anyone how or who they should date.

  7. 27

    meetmeinoutrspace, I know what you are saying, I remember having dificulty conversing while on a date. I took months of counseling to learn the art of conversation. You are right, not all men are like that, but, a good, many, many are.

  8. 28

    I went out with an econ professor one time- I’m a nerd at heart myself, and his e-mails were hilarious. So…I spend two hours getting ready for this dude, and he shows up with a huge hole in his sweater. He was a nice guy, but the fact that he asked me to lunch and then refused to eat (uncomfortable for me since I was starving) and did not make eye contact with me once (come ‘on, I know I’m not that hideous :-D) was- let’s say, a dealbreaker

  9. 29

    Oh Sayanta! You MUST avoid the econ professors. 🙂 I say this as a one-time economist myself. I’ve attended many econ conferences – they’re the conferences that never serve free lunches or coffee – and have had many funny experiences. E.g., if I wanted a small coffee and another attendee did too, he would insist we get one large one and then split it because the cost was a little lower that way. Even if I didn’t know him well!

    The nerd in me says: yes, that makes sense. The “socially proper” me says: yes, but there is value in having one’s own coffee that exceeds the few cents we managed to save.

    The guy who showed up with a huge hole in his sweater to take you out: don’t take it personally. Almost certainly, he didn’t notice. Not eating and not looking at you, though, when I bet you’re gorgeous? Yes, those are dealbreakers.

    (Speaking of nerddom: just found out that I’ve had a paper accepted in Science – whoo hoo!)

  10. 30

    Just because he wasn’t eating doesn’t mean you couldn’t eat…

  11. 31


    lol- thanks for that. The guy was FUNNY though- well, okay- in e-mail. I actually offered to pay for my lunch, since I figured it was a price thing, I wouldn’t see him again, etc. But he insisted on paying. Oh well, the mystery of the unexplained….

    COngrats on your article!! What’s it called and when is it coming out, so I can look for it?

  12. 32

    Thanks Sayanta! The Science article will come out either next week or the week after. It does no good to look for an author named “Helen,” though – that’s just my blog name. 🙂 It’s similar to my real name.

  13. 33

    cool- yeah, Sayanta’s not the name I go by in the non-computer world either.

  14. 34

    Roger #19, I wasn’t referring to you, but to guys who remain single into their 40/50’s and set their expectations to high that they won’t date any women who’s less than a 10.

    And Sayanta #28, how painful. Guys, another lesson – a women feels uncomfortable if you take her out and don’t order anything, or very little. It’s saying that you don’t really care about sharing your time w her in a meaningful way, and it makes her feel as if she’s being too idulgent/self-concious.

    If you’re not as hungry as she is, that’s ok, order something on the light side, but if she’s ordering an entree and you just get a drink or a club soda, it’s unsettling.

  15. 35

    When I was a young lonely nerd, most women who said things to me that sounded like come-ons were just teasing me. At least, that’s what I believe(d). So perhaps one problem here is that, these nerds have been put down by women so much that they don’t believe you. They also tend to miss subtlety / “hints” because they don’t expect women to be interested in them, so they don’t interpret hints as such. Yes, it’s a terrible catch-22 but it’s also a matter of basing expectations on past results (you know, the scientific method!).
    Maybe a little more directness and/or some way to show you are sincere would help? They may also be worried that you won’t be interested in anything they are interested in. Nerdy guys tend to be hypersensitive to perceived lack of interest in the person they are talking to; this leads to an embarrassed feeling and they stop talking. (I’m still guilty of this!) An idea: Ask them to explain something they are interested in to you, or bring up your own topic to discuss. Directness and persistence will help, I think. You say that lack of relationship experience is “not the problem”, but actually it is — even if they believe you are sincere, they will shy away for fear of being a disappointment as a result of their inexperience.
    I really don’t think there is such a thing as the “friend zone” with guy nerds… usually we are IN the friend zone, not putting others in it. 🙂 So I can’t imagine that that’s your problem. The problem is, nerds have their own sort of baggage. Positive, sincere encouragement will go a long way, if you are willing to provide it.

    1. 35.1

      ^This is the kind of so-called “nerd” we’re actually looking for. The guy that is actually kind and smart, not smart and bitter, and maybe even mean.

  16. 36

    Ok not to sound vain, but I do get a lot of attention from guys. But the majority of them just don’t do it for me. I met this guy through another friend (who I met through another friend…). After getting to know him over the couse of a few months I realized I liked him. We ended up dating for a month. We are both in our early/mid 20’s yet he had never had a gf. At first he acted so into me, but then broke up with me because, as he says (still not entirely sure though…), he realized he wasn’t as ready for a relationship as he thought he was. He told me that girls don’t really go for him, and ESPECIALLY not girls like me. He said me liking him was a ‘fluke’. I find that very offensive, because I wasn’t even looking or wanting to date anyone before him. I went out with him BECAUSE I liked him, but because I wanted a boyfriend for the sake of having out.

  17. 37
    Matt Dating

    Melody it sounds like he has some issues that are in no way related to you as a person. It’s a shame that he is unable to deal with his own insercurities and has obviously hurt your feelings because of that. If you do really like him though, it sounds like, from what you say, that he isn’t the womanizing type, so maybe just give him some time to think it through.

  18. 38

    Ok…I am one of said nerds that you seem to be talking about in your question and I think I sense the problem…Many nerdy guys are REALLY shy…we’re Ok online because its anonomous but when it comes to something that may be real we are scared as hell. I know whenever a non-nerd expresses an interest in me(it has happened but I don’t think they meant it) I never do anything because I fear that they are trying to lead me on… If there is any way you could prove you aren’t leading him on and that being socially backward is  OK  I doubt you would have near as much trouble with this. If we don’t reply to you Don’t Feel Bad we don’t want to hurt you we are just a little (lot) scared.

  19. 39

    Ok heres the deal with me, I also like these kind of people and recently lucky me he’s interested. I don’t normally go for these types but we get on so well that it kinda works. The first time of course he was worried and also saying i was out of his league but after a few days of chatting he was nervous we met and he was really nervous. I think these guys just are worried because they don’t have really much confidence but if you make them feel at ease they will work on that and thats what happened with me and i can tell you something he knows what to do if you get my meaning. So anyways If i was you i would just try making him feel more at ease and thene he will start to open up and be more open with you. And work from there. It worked for me and we’re happy and tbh i couldn’t careless about my reputation if no one likes it it’s their problem not ours we are quite happy and have an amazing sex life. Just try being more friendly with them i’m sure they will come around eventually i think it’s really mainly for them to feel comfortable and as in an earlier post they do not think that we would like them so much but for me i just made my views clear with him and it worked so good luck and i hoped that helped a bit. 🙂

  20. 40

    Most “nerds” have something called Asperger’s Syndrome which is going to affect how they interact with a girl who asks them out or approaches them. I would recommend reading up on how to date men with Asperger’s. They do make great partners because they are extremely loyal and honest, yet at the same time, they do not always understand how to show affection and respond to proper social cues.

    Side note…

    I just wanted to say that as  a young girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, your  blog has helped me immensely. In the past, when I liked a guy, I would always end up scaring him off  by being socially inappropriate and not picking up on his non verbal cues. I mean, people love me once they get to know me, but naturally, my Asperger’s tends to sabotage the whole  “getting to know me” part because  it’s not in my nature to understand how to behave.

    However,  I have recently  read your blog all the way through, and thanks to your advice, I now stand a chance at having a relationship with a boy.  If it weren’t for your simple guidelines and wisdom, I would be totally lost. So thank you!


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