Category: College dating

  • Are you asking too much of a boyfriend?

    Ladies – Before we go into today’s letter, I have a favor to ask you. I’m re-doing the cover of The Tao of Dating, and I’d love to know which ones you like best! Click here to go to the contest and let your opinion be known:

    With that out of the way, here’s a great email exchange I had recently about relationship expectations and being in touch with your own needs and emotions. Where does jealousy come from? Why and when do we feel someone isn’t good enough? How do we get in the way of our own loving?

    Dear Dr. Ali, 

    I’m in a very challenging situation and you’re the only person I completely agree with when it comes to relationships so I would really appreciate your help.

    I have recently started dating an amazing man. We get along really well, our conversations flow effortlessly, we have insane chemistry, and he makes me extraordinarily happy.

    There is, however, one catch. He has two kids from his previous marriage. He only sees them once or twice a week and spends enough time with me. As much as I am happy with him, this fact is always bothering me in the back of my mind and I can’t get over it.

    I keep thinking “what if I had met him earlier when he was childless?” And this is just driving me crazy. I don’t know what to do. He is so amazing and I think I can never find someone like him again, on the other hand, I think the fact that he has kids is always going to bother me. I know I sound like a horrible person but I just can’t help it!

    What do you think I should do? Giovanna from Harvard

    Dear Giovanna –

    Sounds like you’ve got a good thing going! Some background info would be useful: your age, his age, do you have/want kids, what kind of work you do, are you angling for marriage, etc.

    So I don’t know the full story here, but one thing is for sure: (more…)

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  • The promise and peril of young love: the epic email exchange

    MARK YOUR CALENDARS: I will be doing the first Tao of Dating LIVE lecture/workshop in San Francisco from 7-9pm on Tuesday 20 May. Details coming right up…

    Ever been in love? It’s a consuming preoccupation, liable to bring out the best, the worst and the dumbest in ourselves. It’s particularly potent when we’re young. Sure, older people do silly things when they’re in love, too, but a less-experienced youngster possessed in the clutches of romance is a bit like a 5-year old behind the wheel of a Ford F-150 pickup truck: things are gonna get wrecked. Here’s an email exchange with a Canadian university student that illuminates some tricky aspects of this whole love thing: (more…)

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  • Best letter I’ve ever gotten: On resources, mistakes and real empowerment

    This is one of the most remarkable letters I have ever received from a reader. Check it out, and then I’ll tell you what makes it remarkable:

    “Dear Dr. Binazir, My name is Marcia and I live in Singapore and I just turned 21 which means I am now entitled to a spot in jail should I break any laws, oh and also, I have to accept full adult responsibilities like thinking about my career path and finishing university with a degree.

    I struggled with Depression for six years and I was always consumed with self-harm and harbored hostility against men because they were eternal jerks and no one seemed to like me because well, I never realized that it was because (more…)

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  • Love, Dating & Happiness at Harvard: Ali Binazir at the Harvard Alumni Association

    Love, Dating and Happiness at Harvard
    “Love, Dating and Happiness at Harvard” at the HAA, June 2013

    I gave a 14min talk at a gathering of fellow Harvard alumni in Cambridge in June 2013. Hope you find it useful. (more…)

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  • How to handle 6 dating curves women will throw at you

    Ahh, the plight of  single men.  If we wish to consort with the fairer sex, it’s up to us to approach women, charm them, ask them out, take them out, pay for the entertainment, go for the kiss, try to get to the next base — and risk rejection at every step.  Every time you’re on a date, a cop might as well come up to you and say, “You have the right to screw up.  Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of public opinion of your date’s girlfriends.” You should probably avoid girls named Miranda.

    At the same time, you have agency — you get to ask her out, instead of having to wait for the phone to ring.  This is a good deal.  With a little bit of caution and foresight, you can avoid these dating pitfalls and instead have a lot more fun and success in your love life.  Here’s what to watch out for.

    1. The postponed response, or the Almost Yes.

    You call her up on Monday to ask her out for Friday night.  She says, “That sounds great — let’s do it!  Except there’s this one thing at work I may have to go to that night, and I won’t know until Wednesday if I’m free Friday night.  Can I call you back on Wednesday or Thursday to let you know?”

    Ooh.  This has happened to many a man many a time.  And if she’s some elusive hottie you’re really into, it may seem like you’ve hit the jackpot.  She said yes, right?

    Wrong.  She said maybe.  Which basically means you (more…)

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  • The Art & Science of Spotting College Bad Boys

    Here’s a letter I got recently from a female Harvard undergrad. Names have been changed to protect the shady:

    Dear Ali,

    I have a question for you regarding a dating situation I had recently.

    Jon had been pursuing me for several months, sending me friendly texts, chatting in our psych class, before I was finally convinced that his intentions were (at least somewhat) honorable. I began spending time with Jon outside of class; we would hang out together at parties on the weekend and sometimes grab lunch during the week. I was aware that Jon was far more available to spend time with me on weekend nights than during the week, but, I figured, we were both busy people.

    After a few months of casually hooking up, I decided that I liked Jon, but I didn’t just want a casual relationship with him. Before things went any further, physically that is, I communicated my concern to Jon. I told him that I didn’t just sleep around. If he did not want a commitment, this could not go any further.  Jon understood, and even told me that I was the kind of girl he “respected.” I was satisfied with this response; maybe I had actually found a good guy.

    Shortly after Jon and I slept together, he stopped calling me.

    I thought I had been so careful. After all that time, how did I still become his one-night stand? I need sage advice — how do I spot a “bad boy” in disguise?


    Wow. Tough one, Sara! Sounds like you were pretty circumspect about this one and still got blindsided.

    Before we start, two things: It’s possible for you to do everything right and still get a bad result. It’s called life. The key is to dust yourself off, chalk it up to experience and keep on moving. Do not indulge in self-pity, blame or shame, but do learn from your experience.

    Second: Could you have done things differently? This is where the gold nugget of learning resides. I was just reading about one of the greatest game players of all time. His name is Bill Robertie. You’ve probably never heard of him: he’s a champion chess player, a 2-time world backgammon champion (a record), and a poker expert. Nobody in the world has that level of mastery in those three domains.

    By his own account, the way he got to be world-class in all three disciplines was to learn from his own mistakes. He would study every move he made, and think: “How can I do this better next time?” And he did. And he got that good.

    So the key here is to see what you can and should do differently next time. I don’t have the full account of who Jon is and what transpired between you, so I’ll be talking in terms of principles rather than specifics.

    What we’re going to focus on today is not just how to avoid bad boys, but how to ensure that you (more…)

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  • The Five Big Dating Mistakes of College Men

    Dear Dr. Binazir,

    Hello! My name is Kevin and I am a senior in college. I have really enjoyed reading your Tao of Dating emails for the last few months. The advice and philosophy you offer is both constructive and life-affirming. Additionally, I am continually impressed by the respect, humility, and humor with which you communicate. In short, thank you!

    Right now, I’m in the middle of a difficult situation and I trust that you more than anyone I know might be able to help.

    Last spring, I met a girl who has changed my life. I noticed her immediately – she sat in front of me in the Gospel Choir and would frequently look back at me and smile/stare, never saying a word. I knew from her comportment (and the fact that she always brought her biology text to rehearsal) that she was someone with whom I could become close friends, and hopefully more. After weeks, I finally worked up the courage to introduce myself. We became fast friends. Even though we do not share mutual friends (she is a sophomore), we have gone on hikes, runs, and bike rides together. We have a meal together once every other week. This past summer, since she worked in a lab near my house, we had a wonderful picnic on the Charles River.

    I am sure that this sounds very straightforward so far, but there is one major complication – she has a boyfriend. He is my age and goes to another school. They met in high school and started dating when he went to college. He and I have met and hung out together a few times, and while we are not going to become close friends, he’s definitely a decent guy. He is in love with her, but to be honest, she seems surprisingly ambivalent toward him. Even more inexplicably, she has never called him a “boyfriend” and never mentions him to me unless he is present. When she told me that he would be joining us one day over the summer, she called him “my apartmentmate.”

    Over the spring and summer, things were moving on a very fast, positive trajectory. Now, with only six weeks to go before the end of the academic term, things have slowed – but not for any discernible reason. We had an hourlong breakfast two weeks ago and are planning to do a challenging dayhike with a small group next weekend. Her birthday was Tuesday, so I gave her a card. But it just seems like something is ‘off.’

    Her behavior over the last week has been uncharacteristically fickle. One day she was enthusiastic and flirty and the next day she was uncommunicative and tense. In short, she seems conflicted – as if I may be both a source of happiness and confusion. (To think that I may be a cause of anxiety is a terribly frustrating thought!) If time were no object, I would take this as a signal to step back. Moreover, she will be in Spain next term and I will be in Greece for my final term in the spring. Even though we only live an hour apart (Massachusetts to New Hampshire), unless she were to break up with her boyfriend, we will likely not see each other much (if at all) after I graduate. I know that if I do not tell her how I feel soon, I will not have a second chance.

    Basically, I am at a novel impasse. I have never attempted to date a girl who was in a relationship before and she is the only girl I have ever met that I would do anything to spend my life with. What should I do?

    Thank you again for all your insights and in advance for your advice.

    Sincerely, Kevin

    First of all, thank you Kevin for your astute observations on the nature of my work.  Constructive! Life-affirming! With gobs of respect, humility, and humor!  I agree.  Especially the part about humility.

    Tomfoolery aside — aww man.  Could I write a book on this one.

    Oh wait, I did.  It’s called The Tao of Dating for Men.  And I wrote it specifically for the brainy, overthinking, underexperienced dudes who populate the Ivy-type schools that our good man Kevin attends (he’s at Dartmouth).

    This letter touches upon many themes that are relevant to the love lives of college boys, so we’re going to blunt-dissect them one-by-one, because that’s the best way to see all the components of folly that’s going on here — and destroy them in the process :)

    Why does all of this sound familiar to me? Because I was Kevin not too long ago, all through college and medical school. Man what I would give to have those 8 years of my life turn out differently.

    But I digress. Let’s begin with Theme #1:

    1. You must get out of the scarcity mentality

    This is the big no-no when it comes to college romance.  Let me break it down for you: there will be a time in your life when (more…)

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