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Ask Margot-I’m A Late-Bloomer In Love…


A man with minimal dating experience feels he can’t compete for a woman’s attention. Here’s advice.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ear Margot,
I had a strict religious upbringing and went to religious schools through college and didn’t really date much. Now that I’m out in the world, I’m feeling a little unprepared. I don’t have confidence when interacting with women because my dating skills are nonexistent. What’s a nice guy like me to do to compete with all the other guys who have years of experience
When we’re young, we make a lot of mistakes.
on me?
– Nice Guy Finishing Last

Dear Nice Guy,
I don’t often take out my dictionary when dispensing advice but your case cries out for definition. The word “confidence” comes from the Latin word “confidere” or “to trust.” I know you’re scared. I know you feel like the latest of late-bloomers. But trust in my advice and in the faith that’s gotten you this far in life: Whatever challenges you have in meeting with and competing for women will work themselves out in short order.

What you didn’t miss…
First of all, you may not be as far behind as you think. In fact, in some ways, you might be ahead. Here’s why. When we’re young, we make a lot of mistakes. And a high percentage of the mistakes we make involve dating. So while you were cloistered away all those years, most of the guys you’re worried about were making fools of themselves by spouting stupid pick-up lines, making things up to appear more likeable, and wearing those awful Carolina Blue ruffle-shirted tuxes to the prom. Our teens and twenties are, for many of us, best forgotten—or, as in your case, spent in school under thoughtful guidance. Though you feel you may have missed out on certain tricks of the trade, it’s quite likely that all you missed were years of pimple-faced embarrassment, heart-wrenching failure and bad relationship habits.

So while I wouldn’t argue that you lack experience, I would argue that the experience you lack isn’t worth worrying about. But I can hear you hollerin’, “But Margot, I am worried.” You’ve got that nagging feeling that you missed something, some essential secret everyone else learned that you were never privy to. And maybe you did, but I’m not sure it’s a fatal flaw. Let’s see what we can do about that.

Your secret advantage
Since you’re a self-proclaimed “nice guy,” I can tell you feel pretty confident in your ability to be a decent human being. No doubt all those years in relative social isolation were filled with many lessons on living an upright life, doing unto others and so on. What do you think most women want in a relationship? Someone with years of awkward pick-up lines and a history of failed relationships or a guy who’s spent years of his life devoted to being decent? See where this is going? Your background may just be an advantage, not a disadvantage.

Dating is a lot easier when you know yourself well.
Finally, let’s look at another aspect of your allegedly sheltered life, sugar. How have you done at friendship? I doubt you’ve spent your entire life completely alone and utterly isolated from humanity. You’ve probably had lots of friends, some for many years. These relationships, while not dating relationships, operate on a lot of the same principles and require a similar degree of mature attention. I would imagine you feel fairly confident about your ability to make new friends. And friendship is the best foundation for building romantic relationships.

Do you see the theme here? Confidence is all about trust and the key to having it in your case is trusting in yourself. Trust that the time you’ve spent not making immature relationship mistakes will keep you from making them in the future. Trust that the relationships you’ve built in your life will serve as models for the relationships you hope to build in the future. Trust that the most important thing people look for in romantic relationships is being with a decent person who really cares about them.

Summon your self-esteem
You’re a well-educated, well-mannered, well-intentioned human being. Whatever you may lack in experience, you more than make up for in other ways that really matter. Dating is a lot easier when you know yourself well and you’re committed to treating others with compassion and respect. Can you handle that assignment? Dating is not about how you talk, how you dress, or which trendy nightclub you can take your sweetie to on a Saturday night. It’s about connecting with another person and nurturing an exchange based on openness and admiration.

Plus, you can learn the other stuff. If you’re with a woman who’s more experienced, she’ll enjoy schooling you. And if you’re both novices, what better way to learn than with someone you love?

I know you’re nervous. Everybody’s nervous. And for most of us, that never changes, no matter how much experience we have. The playing field is more level than you think. Don’t concentrate on the things you don’t have. Focus on who you are and the life experience that makes you the best partner for that certain someone.


Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. Send your faith-based dating questions to AskMargot@match.com.
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