Dear Dr. Beth

For Valentine’s Day we asked guest columnist Dr . Beth Ribarsky of the UIS Department of Communication to offer her expert relationship advice to lovelorn students.




Dear Dr. Beth,

I’m an out-and-proud lesbian with a serious crush on a girl in one of my classes. She seems like the coolest person in the world to be around, and I’d love to get to know her more. The problem is that my gaydar’s broken when it comes to femme girls. How do I start talking to her without being creepy or too forward, and how can I tell if she’s into me too?

Dear Gaydar on the Fritz,

Isn’t crushing on someone the most exciting and simultaneously frustrating thing? Unfortunately, more often than not, most of us bottle up those feelings because we’re afraid of being rejected and never create a chance to act on that crush. Straight or gay or somewhere in between, I’d give you the same advice. Simply ask her to lunch at The Union. It’s super-casual and gives you a chance to chat her up on a more personal level without embarrassing yourself too badly. You could even steer the conversation to past dating experiences to get the scoop. Still feeling a vibe between you two after chatting? Ask for her number (if you haven’t already scored it) and suggest hanging out in the future. You could even go for the goodbye hug to see how she reacts. A hug is pretty innocent but can tell us a lot about a person’s interest based upon how they receive it.

But, let’s go back to the beginning. What if you ask her to lunch and she says, “no” without a good excuse? Then, it’s a pretty good sign she’s not interested in being friends or anything more and it’s better to find someone else who is deserving of your affection. If you don’t connect on a romantic level, maybe you’ll at least get a friend out of the interaction. And don’t worry, no one’s gaydar is perfect. Fortunately, there are some ways for us to test the waters.

Dear Dr. Beth,

All of my friends that use Tinder say they’ve been successful in linking up with people from the app. I get a decent amount of matches, but no real sparks fly with any of them. Am I doing something wrong, or are my expectations just too high? Is Tinder really just a hookup app?

Dear All Matches and No Flames,

Tinder was started as a “hook-up” app; however, recent research has found over 60 percent of Tinder users are looking for a long-term/ dating relationship. But, most of this data comes from individuals 25+. That isn’t to say there aren’t also people out there looking for the same thing as you. Tinder just might not be the right avenue for you. There are hundreds of other free apps out there including Plenty of Fish, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, etc. As I like to say, cast your net a little wider, and you might catch a fish you didn’t know existed.

But the bigger take home is to quit relying on dating apps! College is the one time in your life you are literally surrounded by a ready-made dating pool. Here’s a crazy idea … talk to the cute guy/ girl next to you in class. Go to one of the social events or parties on campus and strike up a conversation. Too shy? Too bad! Just count to three and do it. Otherwise, you’ll end up over thinking it and talking yourself out of it. What’s the worse that’s going to happen? He/she says they aren’t interested or you don’t find a spark with him/her. So what! Dating is a process of sorting and finding the best match for you and, for better or worse, this might take a lot of trial and error. But, you’ll walk away with great stories at the very least.

Dear Dr. Beth,

I’ve been with my girlfriend for just over eight months now, and I love her to death. I want to tell her, but I’m not really the touchy-feely type. I hate going out on a limb and expressing my feelings, especially with the chance that I might freak her out. Should I just man up and tell her, or should I wait until I know it’s the right time?

Dear Not So Feely Fred,

Let’s be honest … your question really isn’t about being touchy feely. Your question is about the risk and fear of rejection. Telling someone you love them for the first time is scary. What if they say they don’t feel the same way? What if they respond, “Thanks?” That’s awkward for sure. But, frankly, you’re 5 months late to the game. On average, the first “I love you” comes around 3.3 months into the relationship. If you truly love her, then, just do it! If we always waited for the right or perfect time, very few of us would be in romantic relationships. Just promise me not to do it via a text. Nothing zaps romance quite like a text. A good first “I love you” could be as simple as turning to her as you’re walking across campus or sitting down to watch a movie and saying, “Ya know, I love you.” Love is meant to be shared, and if she isn’t sharing the same vibe after 8 months, it’s time to cut your losses.


Dr. Beth Ribarsky is an associate professor in the UIS Communication department. She studies interpersonal relationships with a special focus on romantic relationships. You can sign up for her class –COM 423, Dating & Relating –online in Summer 2019 or on-ground in Spring 2020. For possible future columns, please submit YOUR relationship questions to [email protected] with DR. BETH in the subject heading.