Wednesday, Apr.16 — Q: I’m a woman sharing a house with several roommates. We’re all in our mid-20s. This one male roommate and I sometimes cook meals together, and we share a bathroom (since we’re both cleaner than the other roommates) and deep-clean the kitchen together. I’ve always been attracted to him, but he spends three nights a week with a girl he calls his “booty call.” Last week, we were home alone together, had some wine…and ended up having sex. We haven’t spoken much since, and he’s still seeing this same woman just as much. He’s moving out next week and relocating out of state for work in two months, but I can’t help wondering whether a relationship is possible. Should I just say goodbye and avoid embarrassing myself or take a more active approach? I can't tell whether my feelings are sincere or whether I'm just sad because the other roommates are not as clean or as interested in cooking.
A: It's so rare to find a roommate who cleans the kitchen, I can understand why you wanted to sleep with him.
Don’t read too much into finally getting it on with Mr. Clean. There’s a reason a guy seizes the opportunity to have sex with a woman, and it’s typically the one British mountain climber George Mallory reportedly gave when asked why he wanted to tackle Everest: “Because it’s there.”
Sometimes sex can kick-start a relationship, but in this case, it merely seems to have kick-continued the sex he’s been having three times a week with somebody else. Also, a guy who is interested in a relationship with you acts the part — asks you out (or at least lingers expectantly, fidgeting with cleaning products); he doesn’t ask for his security deposit back so he can move to another state.
Taking “a more active approach” will not change this. In fact, for a woman, it’s often a very counterproductive approach. Forget the idea that you “should” be able to pursue a man the same way a man would pursue you. As I explain with some frequency, men evolved to pursue women and tend to devalue women who chase them. This is a deep-seated thing, embedded in our psychology and driving our behavior over millions of years of human history, down to our bitsiest bits. (The sperm chase the egg. The egg does not chase the sperm.) In other words, you found a lost cause, hopped aboard, and are now riding it like a pony. You are not alone in this. We humans have a powerful aversion to loss. When it starts to look like we’ve made a bad bet, we engage in the “sunk cost fallacy” — continuing to invest (and even stepping up our investment) based on how much time, energy, resources, or emotion we’ve already invested. Of course, the rational approach would be basing any further investment on whether it’s likely to pay off in the future. Acknowledging this will free you up to meet a guy who does want you — perhaps some lonely cleaning products heir scouring the world for a woman who’ll put a sparkle in his eye while he puts a sparkle in her glassware. As for you and your scrub-buddy roommate, it’s like that scene with Rick and Ilsa at the end of “Casablanca”: “We’ll always have Clorox.”
Q: I’m a single woman who’s just started online dating after ending a five-year relationship. I’m wondering when to mention that I only want casual dating/friends with benefits — nothing serious. I don’t want guys thinking I’m seeking one-night stands (I’m definitely not), but I also don’t want to lead on guys who want something long-term.
A: A woman seeking regular commitment-free sex is a bit like a man just looking for somebody to join him for scrapbooking and a cuddle. Each might be telling the truth, but their target audience will find it hard to believe. In other words, it’s best to avoid putting “not looking for anything serious” in your online dating profile. Some men will take it at face value, but many will see it as either a red flag (fake profile, a trap, etc.) or a “go for it!” flag to send their best penis selfie.
Also, your profile is just supposed to be a thumbnail of you. You don’t owe anyone your five-year plan. You could, however, ask to have a phone conversation before meeting and casually mention your recent relationship history. On the phone, you become a person a guy can ask questions of rather than just a picture with a profile. You can clarify what you’re looking for and, assuming you don’t come off sketchy or psycho on the phone, quell a guy’s fear that “nothing serious” really means “I need a fling because the recently paroled felon I’m cheating on my husband with is boring.”
Advice Goddess Radio (“Best Of” replay): “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams on how to fail your way to success.
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