in: Dating & Relationships

Nerves or Total Jerkdom? Here’s How to Tell

When dating, nerves can do crazy things to our (or their!) authentic selves. Here’s how to tell if there’s actual interest… or if you should move on. 


We spend most of our days in front of screens. Our ability to communicate effectively has changed because of it, and we’re all trying to figure out the dynamics of relationships to include it.

Additionally, most of us are still trying to figure out how to be ourselves in a world that’s beginning to tell us increasingly more regularly that it’s okay (and perfect) to be exactly who we are—without much guidance. And that’s okay. It means we get to figure it out for ourselves—which is rewarding, but sometimes takes a little longer than any of us anticipated—so we end up adults trying to figure out what makes us ourselves and where we fit into this spinning little planet.

While dating.

Which means we’re confused… a lot.

Because everyone’s trying to determine where they belong and who they belong with. And we don’t actually talk as much as we used to, so it’s easy to miscommunicate.

Things are misinterpreted based on the days we’re having—whether our barista was nice this morning, if there was more traffic than usual, if we had 20 new emails waiting the moment we walked in the door—it’s really easy to give comments whatever connotation we want them to have, because they’re rarely spoken.

As a result of this declining communicative experience, I’ve ruined could-be relationships on occasion because I mistook nerves for apathy.

But how do you tell the difference between cautious and barely interested?

In this age of being constantly available, it’s fairly simple: if someone wants to get in touch with you, they will. There are literally a million ways to contact any person we want to talk to at any time. This is my least favorite non-negotiable in life. I don’t deal well with not being in control of things, so I’ve spent too many bottles of wine lamenting this specific rule.

But what I think happens—in this age of not actually hearing what people say—is even if someone’s saying something, we look at our phones like, “Why does this one text message not hold the key to my future? Why does this just say hello?!”

I’ve accidentally shut people down (completely!) just because I had a shitty day and they didn’t seem interested enough. The thing is, if someone’s talking, they’re interested. I’ve never once started a conversation with someone I had zero interest in talking to.

But then… we’re all probably going to waste a lot of time if we assume every text is someone who’s simply nervous.

Sometimes people just don’t care much, so the difference between nerves and interest comes down to two things:

  1. How often a person shows interest
  2. And when

When I was in college, I had a guy I would text when I drank too much. Don’t try to tell me you never had one of those, because I will then tell you that you are not a human. (Truth: I’ve had more of these outside of college, but it’s kind of an embarrassing thing to admit, so for the sake of the story, we’ll say I was 21). 

I heard from this guy, roughly, once or twice a month.

It was usually late at night.

Several times I tried to text him during the day. On several occasions it was hours, if not days, before he said anything back to me. When he started dating girls who were not me, I was always very confused—but, why? I was right there. And he clearly liked talking to me. Sometimes. Late at night.

Because he didn’t want to date me.

It’s simple, really.

Embarrassing as it is to admit, I occasionally think in situations like this, “But if I say this one thing and they think it’s adorable, it’s literally going to be a lightbulb. They will love me immediately.”

This has never once proven to be true.

It’s a little funny when I think about the whole thing. I’ve ignored people because they weren’t saying what I wanted them to say… because I didn’t think they were putting enough effort into saying hello to me. Which is utterly ridiculous, given that I’ve spent countless hours wondering exactly why some guy isn’t that interested in talking to me when it’s daylight.

I think we’d all do a little better at this whole thing if we took actions at face value a little more often. That’s my hope for this year—a little less over-thinking and a few more “yes”-es to things that make sense, like hellos and dates with people who ask, and less trying with people who don’t really care.

About the Author:

Sarah Frost

Sarah Frost thinks life is one big adventure—and should be treated that way. She grew up in Texas and quickly realized humidity is no one's best friend. Somewhere along the way she fell in love with words, and wanted to write as often as she could, so she does that as often as she can. She believes there's good in every day and the world was made for traveling, so she spends her time laughing as loudly as possible and looking for her next adventure.

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