Miss Information

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How can I make myself be more attracted to the guys I know are right for me?

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Dear Miss Information,

I was with my ex for a year, and I really thought we had a future. He became my best friend. This man was the first person to really treat me with respect when it came to relationships; he always did what he could to make me happy, and I found myself doing things to make him happy as well. He was my world.

We're both active-duty military. He broke it off with me while I was deployed, and I was left heartbroken. I still don't understand what happened. His mother has talked to me about the breakup; she thinks he's scared of his feelings and will eventually figure them out.

He's contacted me a few times — when we broke up, he said, "I want to remain friends. I still care a lot about you, and it's not like I don't want to see you or talk to you ever again." I got a few messages since the breakup — things like "hey, how are you?" During one conversation he said it'd be nice to hear from me. I've played it cool and tried my best to not talk with him unless it's necessary, but I don't know what to do. He's still so important to me, and this has been by far the most "mature" breakup I've ever had.

Now, I'm on my way back, and he's picking me up at the airport. He offered — I messaged him and asked him to drop my car off at the airport the morning of my flight, because I didn't want to deal with it. Instead, now he's picking me up, and I'm terrified. How do I approach this? Of course I already have a cute outfit planned (not trying too hard, but I'll be damned if I look like I feel when he sees me for the first time!) and I am going to try my best to be calm, cool, and collected when I see him. I'm just scared I'm going to lose it. He's the love of my life, and I still want to be with him. I know that you can't chase a guy, though. I'm just confused. Any advice?

— Chasing Army

Dear Chasing Army, 

Your consolation prize for your boyfriend breaking things off is that you get to define what your immediate post-breakup relationship looks like. You're the one who's heartbroken, so you get to set the boundaries. Congratulations! Mindi here will show you to your car. Thank you for playing "Wheel of Devastation." 

Focus here not on what you "should" do, but rather on how stable you feel. He wants to be friends, but it sounds like you're not ready. Put it in terms of a cost-benefit ratio: would hanging out with him cost you more in mental stability/general happiness than it would do you good? It sounds like it. If seeing him is going to make you backslide, politely thank him for the offer to pick you up, but tell him you've made other plans. Then make other plans. If he wants to be your friend now, he'll still want to be your friend a year from now, when seeing him won't hurt you. As long as you "want to be with him" romantically, you can't be his friend. Lingering attraction will only create tension and pain. 

Maybe you decide the cost-benefit ratio skews in the other direction, and your joy at seeing him outweighs whatever pain it may cause. If you think that's the case, make sure you don't have any lurking lust or wishful thinking clouding your judgment. Are you fine being his friend? His fully-clothed, punch-on-the-arm, let-me-tell-you-about-the-girls-I-have-crushes-on buddy? If you're honestly in that place, then go forth and rebuild your relationship within these parameters. My guess is, though, that if you've put this much thought into your airport outfit, you're not in this place yet, and that's fine. It will take time. 

In short, Chasing Army, your anxiety about seeing him again is a strong signal that you may not be ready to see him again. Trust your gut reaction. You can still be his friend, eventually. Just proceed slowly. See him on your terms and on your time, and the decision should feel much easier. 

Dear Miss Information, 

I'm a female in my early twenties. Since I was a teenager, my love life has followed a reliable pattern. Either I like a guy more than he likes me (he usually has a passing attraction for me, but nothing significant), and so eventually get rejected by him, or I'm pursued by guys I'm not super-attracted to, but who are nevertheless lovely individuals who make great boyfriends.

This is annoying enough, but there's another pattern that gets to me about the men who fall into these two camps. The guys I fall hard for are looking for someone more traditionally "feminine" than I am — someone less outspoken, less overtly sexual, more traditional (family values, monogamy, etc.), and perhaps a little more willing to be controlled than I am. The guys I'm less keen on love my progressive tendencies and my openness about sex, and they're less resistant to me banging on about feminism, etc. But for some reason, I can't seem to return their affections as enthusiastically as I feel I need to to commit to them. And they tend to lack a confidence that the other guys have bucketfuls of. 

It feels like I have to choose between being myself and being in a relationship where I really desire someone. And that any relationship I have will always have a power imbalance of some kind or another. I'm not prepared to compromise who I am for a relationship, but I don't want to enter into a relationship in which I can't sustain my commitment to the other person. I'm currently single (although with a casual lover here and there), and I'm happy this way, but I don't want to be single forever. Can you help me break the pattern? Or at least help me understand why it keeps happening?

— History Repeats Itself

Dear History Repeats Itself,

Why do I think you keep falling into this trap? Because you're in your early twenties. (Zing! Another home run, self. I'm gonna use this week's paycheck to get a sweet new face tattoo.)

For what it's worth, I see no obvious red flags in your letter. And, please, for the love of baskets of kittens, don't stop "banging on about feminism" or "being non-traditional" just because you've had limited success with it thus far. At some point you will make some mouthy, kinky anarchist bookstore volunteer's eyes light up, and you'll live happily ever after. Don't lose faith. 

In the short term, I wonder what it is about these "traditional" guys that does it for you. You say they have more confidence than their liberal counterparts, but "confidence" is a broad term. Could it be that you're misreading "traditionalism" as "confidence"? Pay attention to the "turn on" signals you're getting from these Mr. Wrongs and see if you can find any common threads. Is it possible that a turn-on (like, for example, him putting his hand on your back to steer you through a door), might actually be more of a red flag (like a sign that he expects to commandeer the relationship)? Apply the same scrutiny to the "eh" signals you get from the great-on-paper guys: maybe a "good" guy won't steer you out of respect for you, which you end up reading as beta-male behavior. Attraction is largely how we interpret actions, so becoming aware of your "likes" and "dislikes" will be a good start.

You're in a phase that most of us go through. Because even though power imbalances are horrible, there's something perversely intoxicating about them, right? A dysfunctional relationship can still be a project, something to obsess over and pick apart. By identifying this pattern, History, you've started to break it. You also know that neither option is sustainable or healthy. Now you'll just get better and better at catching these relationships before they start. 

This is the most optimistic advice I can give you: take this crisis you're having — "Is it me? What am I doing wrong?" — and multiply it by nearly everyone in their early twenties. Each of us is a work in progress. Quite possibly, a so-so guy is metamorphosing into a really stellar one at this very minute. Just focus on your own evolution while keeping an open mind, and eventually you will collide with somebody great.

Want to meet someone confident who also respects your progressive values? Nerve Dating has you covered.