The Dobler-Dahmer Theory

If both people are into each other, a big romantic gesture works: like Lloyd Dobler, holding up the boom box outside Diane Court’s window in Say Anything. But if one person isn’t into the other, the same gesture comes off serial-killer crazy: or Dahmer.

This, my friends, is The Dobler-Dahmer Theory, as explained by Ted Mosby in How I Met Your Mother.

Even if you have never seen Say Anything, you know this scene in the movie. Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) stands outside of his love interest’s window post-breakup, holding up a boombox blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” — the big romantic gesture to win her back. Hearts all over the world melted for that scene 25 years ago. At the opposite end of this theory, we have Jeffrey Dahmer — a serial killer and sex offender who stalked, raped, murdered, and eventually ate his victims. Hmm. Lovely.


“Whether a gesture is charming or alarming depends on how it’s received.”

Yes, I’m well aware that I’m two years late with this reference. I’ve been watching a lot of HIMYM on Netflix lately, and this has always been one of those theories that I feel holds so much truth and genius. [Unlike The Olive Theory… which is complete bullshit.] The theory conveys how tricky of a game dating, romance, and love can be to play. And in the end, that’s all it is anyway– a game.

The Dobler-Dahmer Theory states that there is no unequivocal line you cross for your actions to be construed as super sweet or certifiably nuts. What’s more, there is no way to know how your actions will be received until you actually go for it. In reality, you’re just placing a bet that you come out a Dobler. And even though you may think the house stacked the odds in your favor, anything can happen. There is *no* such thing as a sure thing.


You could pull the same move on every person you meet, and for every person that perceives you as a Dobler, there will be just as many that think you’re a total Dahmer. Even more disheartening, someone could spend an entire relationship a Dobler, and one day without warning, morph into a Dahmer. No matter how long you are with someone, once you see them as a Dahmer, there’s usually no going back. There are no guarantees in dating and in love and in romance… which is equally as awesome as it is depressing.

As if I needed any more of a reason to live out the rest of my days in the company of my cat…

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