I’m a Short Man Struggling to Find Love. What Do I Do?


Dear Dr. NerdLove,

I am a long-time reader of your column and I really appreciate your advice for men who can’t find love. I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’m ready to write in and get help.

I am a 29-year-old man with a fairly active and vibrant social life and a good career I really enjoy. I make a good living, my friends are wonderful and my life is pretty good. But there’s clearly a problem, right? Well, I can’t get a second date to save my life, and I suspect it may have something to do with my height. Standing at 5’5″, I am below the average height for men in my country.

I want to stress that this isn’t just about women online talking about wanting tall guys or commands to “swipe left” on Tinder if I’m not six feet or more. I’ve talked to women, when we were talking about dating struggles and starting to flirt when they specifically mentioned how they prefer ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ men or jokingly commented that I’d be ‘perfect’ if I were a bit taller. Just last month, I was on a date with a woman I was genuinely interested in, and she commented that she was surprised she liked me, because she usually only dates guys who are taller than her. I know she didn’t intended to be hurtful, but comments like that make me feel inadequate and less desirable.

This feeling of insecurity about my height is something that I struggle with, despite knowing that I have other qualities to offer. I am well-educated, have a good sense of humor, am genuinely interested in others, I connect with people easily, am told people love spending time with me and I make a conscious effort to be kind and respectful. Yet, I can’t seem to shake the feeling that my height is a hindrance in the dating scene.

I would appreciate your perspective on this. Am I just too short for women? How can I navigate the dating world with this apparent handicap? Any tips or advice on how to deal with being short, or even just how to stop worrying about it, would be greatly appreciated.


Dwarfs Need Love Too

Before I get to the meat of your letter, DNLT, can I point something out? I’m not going to deny that being below average height can be a handicap; that’s a thing people do encounter out in the dating world. However, I can’t help but notice that it seems like you’re letting fears about not being tall enough snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

You have an example in your letter of being on a date with someone who said, directly, that she was really into you to a level she didn’t expect. That’s what you want, man. Yeah, the way she phrased it was… inelegant at best and sounded like a left-handed compliment. But while the way she said it hit your anxiety button, consider the situation. This wasn’t some rando on TikTok or Reddit talking about men in general or some stranger at the bar saying she likes tall guys. This was a woman who was on a date with you, which is already a good sign that she’s at least willing to give it a try with you. But more importantly, what she’s saying – that she’s surprised by how much she likes you – is what’s important. What she’s saying isn’t “you’re too short but you’ll do for now”, what she’s saying is “I took a step outside my comfort zone and I’m really happy I did”.

That’s the reaction you want, my guy. One of the reasons why I’m increasingly encouraging people to put more emphasis on meeting people in person, rather than on the apps, is because it leaves more room for serendipity. On the apps, it’s very easy to get tunnel vision and focus entirely on what we think we want. When we meet people in person, we open ourselves up to the possibility of meeting someone who may not seem like a good match on paper but who turns out to be a great match after all.

In fact, there’re a lot of folks out there who met their partners in person and have said “if I came across him on Tinder or Hinge, I might never have gone on a date with him”. While that may sound insulting, it’s more of an reminder that we’re more than just our stats, our profiles and our pictures; we’re universes unto ourselves and when people fall in love, they fall in love with the holistic self, not just our vital statistics. Apps expose you to more people, sure, but they flatten people from complex, three-dimensional beings to lines of text and the ability (or lack thereof) to take a decent photo.

Now those other women, the ones who say that they prefer tall, dark and handsome or that you’d be perfect if you were just a few inches taller? Well… that’s not really a value judgement on you. Think of it another way: I’m sure that there’re women out there who you think would be a great girlfriend or wife, but there’s just something about them that doesn’t quite click for you. I’m sure you’d agree: that doesn’t mean that they’re flawed or unloveable, just that they’re not right for you. You’re not into them and that’s ok. To paraphrase… well, me, attraction isn’t Mjolnir. Someone’s attraction, or lack thereof, doesn’t measure your worthiness, even though it can feel that way.

And if they’re someone who can say “you are literally everything I want in a man except for the fact that you’re 5’5”, sorry” then all that’s happened is that they’ve demonstrated that they’re not right for you. Ask yourself: do you really want to date someone who can take all of the qualities that make you a desirable partner and decide that they need someone who’s taller, instead? Someone who’s willing to toss aside a great partner and instead choose someone taller but not as great a guy?

That’s not somebody you want to date. They’ve shown you, through their actions, that their values and priorities don’t line up with yours. It’s a sign that this is a them problem, not a you problem. If everything they want in a dude is less important than his being X inches taller than them, then that just means that they prioritize superficial qualities over deeper ones. And who wants to date someone like that?

Hence my focus on the woman you were on a date with. She looked at you and said “ok, he’s not my usual type but there’s a lot there and I should give him a try.” And lo and behold, she dug you! This is what you want.

Yes, “I like you despite your not being my preferred height” can come across as hurtful, and I’m not saying you’re wrong for being stung by it. But it’s more akin to saying “I thought this was what was important to me, but it turns out that X, Y and Z are more important and are why I like you.”

So, y’know, it’s a good idea to get out of your own way sometimes.

To that end, let’s be honest: yes, some women prefer men who are taller than you. But there’re also going to be women who prefer men who have different jobs, different lifestyles or different religions/philosophies about children/whatever. There will always be folks who just aren’t going to be into you, no matter what you do. There isn’t any good reason to focus on them; the amount of time and energy it takes to try to move from “active dislike” to “disinterest” and “disinterest” to “kinda likes you” isn’t worth it.

Also, in the name of being honest: you can’t do much about your stature. Yeah, there’re folks getting leg-lengthening surgeries to get a couple extra inches of height, but those are incredibly expensive, incredibly, cripplingly painful, absurdly risky and means that you’ll be spending months to years in physical therapy and rehab afterwards with no guarantee that it’ll give you the results you want.

Instead, I think you need to embrace who you are and what you are. There’s no shame in being a short king – God knows it’s not stopping Bruno Mars (who, I might add, is your height). Conveying confidence and comfort in your own skin is going to be way more attractive to women than letting random people’s opinions live rent free in your head.

Now, being shorter than average doesn’t mean that you can’t convey presence more than height. The way people perceive you is more important than the reality.

Dressing well, with clothes that fit properly (you want a slimmer silhouette and clothes with more structure, rather than baggy and slouchy looks) will make a shocking difference in how folks perceive and remember you. This is especially true when you emphasize aspects of your build that aren’t your height. I end up coming across as being taller than my actual 5’8” height because I tend to put emphasis on the broadness of my shoulders and chest.

Similarly, being willing to be seen and take up metaphorical space goes a long way to affecting how people see you. Confident body language (head up, back straight, shoulders back but relaxed, arms loose), a willingness to own the space around you and carrying yourself with the self-assuredness you believe you’d have if you were 6’ makes a real difference.

That being said, please notice very carefully that you don’t need to be big in attitude. Part of why guys who are shorter than average feel less attractive is because of toxic ideas about what makes a man a man. In fact, what turns women off about short men tends to be either the men’s obsession with their own height or the performative combativeness and aggression in an attempt to make up for a perceived lack of masculinity. A short king who’s comfortable in his skin and gives no fucks – see Mars’ video for Uptown Funk for examples – is going to be way more attractive to women than a guy picking fights or insisting his date can’t wear heels.

Another thing to consider is that dating apps aren’t going to be as good for you as just meeting people in person. When you meet folks in person, it’s much easier for them to get to know you and see how awesome you are and fall for that awesomeness. For many, that will be enough to spark their interest. And for some? Well, you may be an unexpected surprise. You may not be their usual shot of whiskey, but that just makes you more unique and more special – you’re so damn hot that they had to make an exception just for you.

That, to my mind, is more validating than thinking “well, I guess she didn’t mind my height that much”.

Oh and one more thing: consider talking to women who’re taller than average. Women get the opposite problem that short men do – tall women often find guys don’t want to date them because they don’t want their girlfriends or wives to be taller than they are. Someone who doesn’t ask them to try to play down their height or doesn’t throw a fit if they decide to wear their favorite heels? That’s going to be a welcome change from what they usually hear.

Good luck.


(Doctor’s Note: Content warning — talk of self-harm and suicide)

Dear Dr. NerdLove: After working constantly as well as being with my kids, I have this horrible feeling of exhaustion. I live alone I’m a studio flat and I work. I love writing and doing music but my life has become an endless mix between children and work. Personally I wish I could just be with the children all the time.

Anyways, I just feel wasted and a little pointless, like the amount of effort to keep functioning and pushing my willpower seems simply now worth it, and I have this growing feeling that I wish I could die and start again or just stay asleep and not wake up.

To get past that point, my second thing is I would not like to request a step by step thing on dating. Now how does any of it work, what do you and how does it even begin? Should I even bother, despite my loneliness, when I don’t have the time in my life. But my biggest fear is putting partner above my kids like my dad did and then seeing him, honestly, looking pathetic about it and being desperate. Plus I don’t want to look like one of those old miserable couples.

One silver lining, after leaving the mum of my kids after a couple of years I slept with one person and it made me realise that sex is supposed to be good. Before that I just assumed that it was something that was just alright. Aha, how depressing right?

To get on a proper positive quote, here is one of my favourite quotes.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

Searching For Summer

um… my guy, I think dating isn’t what you need right now. While I don’t think you need to be in perfect shape, mentally, emotionally or physically to date, you do need to be in good general working order. This is important not just for finding a partner and making a relationship work, but also so you don’t do damage to yourself in the process. And at this moment, I think focusing on dating would hurt you far more than I could ever help.

Here’s the thing: all that talk about being tired, everything feeling pointless and wanting to sleep without waking up again? That’s depression talking. No, seriously. Everything you’re describing in the first couple paragraphs of your letter are symptoms of depression.

That alone suggests to me that maybe you’re not in the right place to be dating. Dating can be stressful and frustrating at times, and that can exacerbate the depression you’re already feeling. Plus, depression blunts our feelings, our ability to enjoy things or even to be fully present with people we care about. That’s going to affect the quality of the connections you’re trying to make with people, your ability to enjoy your time with them and their ability to enjoy their time with you.

But then you dropped hints of suicidal ideation and that is the point where I immediately cut the list of suggestions I had for getting back into the dating scene. This isn’t the time for dating, this is the time for healing and getting that depression under control.

The lack of passion, interests or even motivation, the exhaustion and numbness… all of these are going to interfere with trying to meet and foster a relationship with someone. Even if you could do all the mechanical actions perfectly, your heart will barely be in it. You’ll have a harder time putting yourself out there, taking full advantage of the opportunities to meet people that present themselves, or even show up with your best self.

Worse, you’ll not only find it much harder to give dating or meeting people your best effort, but you won’t want to. It’s hard to give something the time and energy it deserves when you’re already half-convinced that there’s no point to it or your heart’s just not in it. People will be able to tell, and that’ll damage the chances of making the connection you want. And worse, that feeling of meaninglessness and exhaustion means that you’ll have a much harder time recovering from mistakes or setbacks.

And, like I said, that’s before you dropped hints of self-harm. That’s the point where your mental health should shoot right to the top of your priority list, especially as someone who has kids.

I think right now, dating should be put on hold, so you can help yourself and get yourself to a place where not only is the world not grinding you down, but you can continue to be a dad and enjoy your time with your children to the extent you and they deserve.

If it helps, think of it as rehabbing an old injury or getting in shape – just emotionally, rather than physically. Thinking of this as the mental aspect of getting into fighting trim and making yourself a better, more desirable partner who’ll have an easier time dating than you would have now can help add extra motivation beyond, y’know… not feeling like the world dull and grey and that life is an endless slog of disappointment and meaningless drudge work.

Get yourself to a therapist now, especially with those thoughts about self-harm. Therapy, medication, even just talking things through with someone will all go a long, long way to getting your depression under control. And don’t let fears or misgivings about needing antidepressants or other psych meds keep you from getting help. I speak from personal experience: the drugs don’t just work, they can be life changing. As the saying goes: if you don’t have your own serotonin, store bought is fine.

This can – and likely will – take time. It can take time to find the right combination of medication and dosage, the right therapist and even for the therapy to start making significant changes. This is where thinking about it like rehabbing a sports injury is helpful. Yeah, it can take longer than you would prefer to recover, but the alternative would mean getting back on the pitch too soon and risking even greater injury, even a potential career-ending one.

Taking care of your mental health and getting to a better place, emotionally, is important. Dating will still be here when you’re ready. And when you are, I have a whole lot of resources to throw your way that’ll help you get back into the scene and meeting awesome people. But you can’t do that when just the burden of existing is almost too much.

Take that time so you can make it through that winter and reach your invincible summer. After all, to get there and not be able to enjoy it would be a true tragedy.

You’ll be OK. I promise.

All will be well.


This post was previously published on Doctornerdlove.com and is republished on Medium.



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The post I’m a Short Man Struggling to Find Love. What Do I Do? appeared first on The Good Men Project.