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How to Get What I Want
February 21, 2012 6:52 AM   Subscribe

How do I, an early-30's woman, get what I want when it comes to dating and sex?

I would really love some advice about dating and sex. It seems I can never get what I want. I know that's an old refrain, and there might not be anything I can do about it. But if there is something I can do, I would really like to know.

My situation is like this: everyone I like is unavailable in some way; the guys that like me and are available, I just never get enthusiastic about. I usually give these guys more than one chance- go out a few times, etc. I just don't want to prolong things if I am not feeling it. Should I be prolonging things more?

I'm a pretty romantic and emotional person, and I really want a connection with a partner. However, at the same time, I am somewhat of a free spirit and not really looking to get tied into a commitment unless I know it's really right. In the meantime, I still would like to have a sexual partner. But I DON'T want to have meaningless or bad sex. (I'd rather have nothing). I just don't know at all how to go about finding this kind of arrangement. I don't want a "fuck buddy", yet I don't necessarily need a commitment. But I have no idea how to signal to a man that I am not an easy, casual hookup while at the same time I want to have sex. part of the issue is that I live in a pretty sexually conservative country (where I am not originally from).

I am wondering if anyone with experience can give me some tips. Should I flirt more? Are there certain places I should go? I know that part of the problem is my shyness. But I don't know how to get over that.

FWIW, I think I am decently attractive, and sometimes get approached by guys (but I never feel attracted to them when I am, sigh). I wouldn't mind approaching guys myself, but again, how?

Also, I am on an online dating site in this country, but it is really a lot to weed through and I can't get a good sense of what the guys are like, partly because the site is not in English. I'd much prefer to meet people in person.

Also...is it ok to hang out with guys romantically interested in me, as "friends"? Or is that not fair to them?

BTW- This is not a temporary or new situation. I have never had a romantic relationship lasting more than a couple months.

I hope my question is clear. I was hoping others who have been in this situation and found their way out would have a few words of advice.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is no "right" person, you have to try and find out what your potential mate is going to be like. The perfection concept is so misleading as no one is perfect. Everybody comes with their own set of ups and downs, some you like some you dont. You just have to decide what are your deal breakers and then go from there. Based on what you write, YOU are unavailable yourself and many men will sense that, specially those who are looking for commitment. Your standards are unrealistic even to yourself as you havent sort them out yet.

Relax and make friends first, join up for activities, stike up conversations nd the rest will happen
posted by pakora1 at 7:03 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's an issue with how you perceive the available guys - since you say that the ones you find attarctive are unavailable?

As for approaching guys yourself, not knowing the culture you're in, that's kind of difficult to suggest methods.

Maybe it's also you're looking at the end goal ('will this be someone that I can have sex with and be romantic') before just enjoying the company first and seeing how it goes (becoming friends first). So, along what pakora1 says - relax, make friends first and see where things go.
posted by rich at 7:09 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


My situation is like this: everyone I like is unavailable in some way; the guys that like me and are available, I just never get enthusiastic about.

FWIW, I think I am decently attractive, and sometimes get approached by guys (but I never feel attracted to them when I am, sigh).


Are you sure you've got the causation round the right way here? Maybe every single guy you are into isn't into you and every single guy who fancies you doesn't do it for you - or is it possible that you've got a bad case of "unattainable = attractive and attainable = unattractive"?

But I have no idea how to signal to a man that I am not an easy, casual hookup while at the same time I want to have sex.

Yeah, flirting is the generally accepted way to achieve this. It requires practise to get the level right (too little and he won't notice you, too much and you come across as desperate), but you're out there in the dating game anyway, so get to it!
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:14 AM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


I know that part of the problem is my shyness. But I don't know how to get over that.

Drinking, if you're able to do it in very careful moderation. I am not saying this is the best idea in the world, especially if you've ever had any trouble with substance abuse, but when I was painfully shy and socially awkward, I'd go to a social event and slam my first drink as quickly as possible. Then I'd slow way, way down, perhaps having one or two more during the course of 6-8 hours. I'd be more or less sober by the time I was heavily flirting with someone, but the initial buzz got me over the hump, so I was able to approach people. Again, do not attempt this unless you're sure it won't make you physically ill or impair your judgment.

Are you new to the country? It doesn't sound like you speak the language very well. I would use that as a good way to get to know people. "Hi, I'm from ------ and I just moved here in -------. I love the people and the food is great. What should I see? Where can I find a good [specialty food]?" If you're really bold, you can say you don't speak the language well and it'd be great to have a guide to show you around.

Even if you've been here awhile, it's a good ice breaker.
posted by desjardins at 7:39 AM on February 21, 2012


I think you might be trying a little to hard to control the nature of the relationship, to find a way to live out a script that you get to write ahead of time. That's not how it works. You get to say what you like, and you also get to draw personal boundaries, but you don't get to know ahead of time that the emotional connections and levels of attachment that you and any given potential partner eventually feel will be what you're imagining. Figure out what you like, and pursue it. Figure out where your boundaries are, so you know when you or someone else is approaching them. Then jump in and see what happens.
posted by jon1270 at 7:45 AM on February 21, 2012 [13 favorites]


I think it might be an issue that the things you want, while not mutually exclusive, are things that can be difficult to come by anywhere , and probably more so in a sexually conservative country. For some people, for example, committmentless sex IS meaningless because it's casual. Casual doesn't have to be a negative thing, but it's hard to maintain. It's one of those things communication/lifestyle choices is key, and even then, it's still not easy. Probably the best thing to say is what you've said to us, about not wanting to commit unless you know it's right but wanting to still engage in sexual activity, and realise it may weed some out but might also attract some to you (some of whom may not be entirely honest about their intentions or feelings, but that's par for the dating course) - but that also to some people what you are describing is more of a temporary state of things. Do your short-term relationships end on your intiation of theirs? Does one person tend to want more than the other? Are you generally and genuinely attracted to unavailable men?

But the first hurdle would be to actually find a guy you are attracted to who is available, right? Online dating is the only thing that has consistently worked for me, so I can't really help much there.

To your question about guy friends who are interested in you romantically and you don't reciprocate those feelings, if you are honest about that, they accept this, and still want to hang out with you, that's one thing. But if there's any inkling that they can't get past it or have stronger feelings, any pressure, any leading on or flirting on your part, then I wouldn't. It's not really about being fair so much as it's about being smart and careful.
posted by sm1tten at 8:00 AM on February 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also...is it ok to hang out with guys romantically interested in me, as "friends"? Or is that not fair to them?

Usually not fair. Why would you even do this? I see men and women do this to one another all of the time. A girl at a bar last week came in with this guy, they totally seemed into one another. We chatted in a group for like 2 hours. I said "your boyfriend said X." She explained he wasn't her boyfriend, that he had a girlfriend and that she was totally in love with him anyway. I don't understand why either party does that. I'd avoid that like the plague.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:34 AM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Caveat: as with many a relationship askme, I'm coloring this with my own experience. Back in the day I could've written many of these same things, and it turned out that thanks to my anxiety I was trying to protect myself by writing off the truly available men with the excuse that I just "didn't feel a connection". I wasn't feeling the connection because I was doing my darndest not to, and it was all about anxiety, control, and low self-esteem.

Therapy helped me define what I really wanted out of relationships, have more self-esteem, and be a more honest communicator about what I wanted. If therapy isn't an option for you, you still might want to further explore for yourself what you want out of your relationships. For instance, why do you want to hang out with guys that are into you when you're not into them? What is that giving you, and them? As others have pointed out, that's usually not a healthy dynamic, and both of you deserve to enjoy something more reciprocal.
posted by ldthomps at 8:52 AM on February 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have had the same problem. I seems like I don't have chemistry with most of the men I meet, particularly those on online dating sites. Knowing that low percentage, I know I have to meet as many men as possible because I'm not going to click with very many of them. It can really be a difficult slog, but I think it is 100% worth it.

For you it could be what ldthomps said though. I would explore both routes- working on seeing if there is some anxiety inside you that is keeping your from making a connection AND also just getting out there and meeting guys.
posted by melissam at 9:03 AM on February 21, 2012


There could be a lot of things going on. I've really struggled with the same thing since the ending of my LTR 2.5 years ago and though I've improved myself immensely and think I'm a cool guy at this point... it's just not happening. Partially it's a numbers game and neither you nor I want to settle but I think it's at least partly my fault too. So here's my thoughts:

Low self esteem or self worth does lead to the subtle "If someone is into me, something is wrong with them." and "I can never get an attractive mate."

It's anxiety. You say "I am somewhat of a free spirit and not really looking to get tied into a commitment unless I know it's really right." Well, okay, I do the same thing but I'm realizing that it is because #1 there are so many options #2 that makes it hard to actually work at something and #3 it's a way for me to avoid being hurt. ---No relationship should be drama central but there are give and takes at all points.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:10 AM on February 21, 2012 [4 favorites]


Mmmm I could have asked this question not so long ago. I have experienced problematic smoldering desires for unavailable men while finding nothing that seems to compare in the regular, real world.

An idea I've been exploring on my own is what is it in the fantasy with [whichever] unavailable man that I feel would fulfill me so completely? Is it the idea of being saved? Is it the "romantic" idea he'll clearly have to sacrifice a lot in order to be with me, thus proving his love for me? Are my ideas about love warped -- do I find love less convincing if there isn't some token suffering or struggle accompanying it?

At the risk of raising the 'daddy issues' flag, I didn't have a very healthy relationship with my dad growing up (alcoholic). He was generally 'unavailable' due to his addictions and other family dysfunction. There were certain dynamics at work there that really programmed me in early childhood to suck it up, work extremely hard if I wanted a shot at getting his attention, and suffer through if I wanted 'love'. That was how love was modeled for me by the man who I should have been able to enjoy unconditional love from.

Now as an adult, it's very hard to recognize what a healthier kind of love looks and feels like from a good, decent guy but I'm working on it! With an available guy I don't get that dynamic of love = withholding/suffering/whatever that comes with unavailability. This isn't a dynamic I actively seek -- I've been in good relationships before with men who were available -- but it is something that I've noticed in myself being "more attracted to", to the point of being blinded to all other options if I don't maintain a certain level of awareness about it.
the guys that like me and are available, I just never get enthusiastic about. I usually give these guys more than one chance- go out a few times, etc. I just don't want to prolong things if I am not feeling it. Should I be prolonging things more?
I think if you're not feeling it, then it's totally okay. But if anything I wrote above strikes a chord for you, give some thought to what a great man (who is also available) would look like for you. Perhaps there's just been so much devoted to the pursuit of the unavailable, that you really haven't given yourself a fair chance to consider what a good, available package would really look like.
I don't want a "fuck buddy", yet I don't necessarily need a commitment.
Maybe it's not that you don't need a commitment so much as what Sidhedevil wrote here. I know this comment certainly helped me re-align just what it is I'm looking for a in a good relationship for me.
posted by human ecologist at 10:38 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please be open to the idea that it's not just you, but could be related to them and the place you are living in. Although you don't name the country you are living in, and it can be more or less true depending on where you live, where you are from, who you are dating, and how you are meeting these guys there are a couple ways that your surroundings plays into this dynamic:

1) as a woman over 30 in a sexually conservative country, you may be in an unusual position as a single woman where a large portion of your cohort is married, affecting the men's expectations of you and their idea of what you want in a relationship
2) sexually conservative cultures can have limited ideas about platonic relationships with the opposite sex, regardless of the romantic intentions of the guys. Worse, said men could interpret your hanging out with them as a signal that you are interested, no matter what you have said to the contrary.
3) being a non-native of the country could add a certain exoticism to the dynamic, or a "it's ok to play around with the 'loose' Western woman but you better settle down with a good local girl" aspect. You have to decide if you mind having this kind of relationship or not.

You might want to add other methods of meeting people, including face-to-face networking groups or English-language online sites that have an international presence. Not only does this broaden your pool of possible interactions, but it will also give you cues that might be missing now, i.e. non-verbal cues or more English-language profiles of guys who probably have experience in English subtleties or dating in your home culture.

(I have lived overseas and been in multi-cultural relationships where some combination of each of these 3 points was true. It's not always a truth for every relationship and every individual from every sexually conservative country, but they are things I have been through or seen friends go through.)
posted by whatzit at 10:47 AM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think you just need to clarify in your own mind exactly what it is that you want. In a way, your question reads as if you are trying to be all things when it's really not possible and will leave you feeling unfulfilled.

You are more than likely attracted to those who are unavailable because they symbolize to you what you want in your life. Yes, they may be attractive, but they're probably acting more as symbols. Also, generally speaking, many of the good ones are taken and those that aren't...well...you know...they're more likely to approach you because they're approaching a lot of women.

I would really suggest working out whether right now you really want a LTR - and these can be of many flavors, e.g. open relationships, so that you're not limiting your free spirit - or whether you just want casual sex.

What you put out there then - in terms of levels of flirting, where you go, who you focus on - will be a lot easier and you'll be closer to getting what you want.

Also...is it ok to hang out with guys romantically interested in me, as "friends"? Or is that not fair to them?

No, it's generally not fair to them.
posted by mleigh at 1:48 PM on February 21, 2012


Try finding a local Tantra meetups or a national Tantra workshop. (Charles Muir has a good one.) Here you'll often find folks that are into this kind of play -- serious but uncommitted lovemaking. MeMail me for specifics.
posted by bprater at 1:49 PM on February 21, 2012


I don't want a "fuck buddy", yet I don't necessarily need a commitment.

i think you want a "fuck buddy" but you don't like the label and all the baggage with it. look for a fuck buddy.
posted by cupcake1337 at 2:22 PM on February 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Finding someone who is equally available for casual sex is every bit as difficult as finding a serious romantic partner - it is not easy to find a person who happens to want just what you want.

It is 400% okay to say thanks but no thanks, I'd rather be friends. (And it's okay for them to say no to that.)

Finding friends and dates and so forth has a large element of luck. However, it's easier if you know what you want. I don't actually understand your overall question and am joining the chorus asking you to reflect and better define your wants.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 2:35 PM on February 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


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