How can I allow myself to be open to a relationship and not go nutsy thinking about guys, and/or how do I cultivate relationships with men without constantly screening them for evidence that they may "like" me?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
So, I'm a "late bloomer" with regards to relationships with men (I'm a girl, fyi). Maybe late bloomer is even the wrong word, because I am not sure if I've really gotten to the blooming part yet, and am starting to despair that I ever will.
A bit on my history: I’m 28, college-educated, more or less successful and have done some pretty interesting things with my life so far (interesting studies, travels, etc.). I am at a place in my life where I’m pretty happy with the way things are going, and feel as if I’ve grown up a lot in recent years and gained levels of confidence that I didn’t have when I was younger. Just started graduate school for a subject that I’m very interested in and excited about studying, and while I’m going a bit crazy with the work load, I think it will be worth it (and I got to go abroad for the experience, so that’s even better).
The thing is, I’ve never had a long term relationship, and it’s something that I want very much and have for a long time, though have put different levels of energy into “doing” something about it. There are varying reasons for this, ranging from being super shy and very overweight (well, morbidly obese – lost weight in college and have been at more or less normal weight with some fluctuation the past 8 years) when I was in high school, to going to an all-girls college, to spending two years volunteering in a remote village abroad to . . . . well not sure what else would explain it. Most of my experience with men has been either short term things (a summer romance when I was 21 when I had my first (wonderful) kiss, a sort of casual thing for a few months with another guy), unsuccessful internet dates (either I like him and he isn’t into me or vice versa) or random makeout sessions with people at parties, etc. One pattern that I’ve had in the past is that I tend to meet someone I am into, and then when it ends (or doesn’t get off the ground in the first place), I have a hard time letting go of the relationship/person. From my various experiences in recent years, I feel like I’ve learned that that particular pattern derives from historically low confidence and a bit of an anxious personality.
The past year or so of my life before coming to grad school, I wasn’t putting much thought into this aspect of my life – I was focusing a lot on being happy on my own and trying not to worry much about social relationships in general. I’m an introvert, and it was kind of a relief to let myself have some time to not worry about either whether I had tons of friends or whether I had a boyfriend. I went on a few OK Cupid dates, and hung out with people when I felt like it or had the opportunity, but otherwise I was pretty happy with listening to meditation tapes and spending my weekends cooking and riding my bike by myself.
The thing is, since I started grad school, there are suddenly lots of interesting, attractive men at arms length. I’ve cultivated a couple friendships (or at least friendly acquaintanceships) with some of them already. The problem is that I don’t seem to be able to have these friendships without developing terrible, middle school-esque crushes on them (don’t worry, not on the ones with girlfriends). I can’t help myself from dissecting every interaction I have with them to see if they are sending off “signals.” I feel like I’m kind of slipping back into habits of the past as regards men.
My question (sorry for the length), therefore is: how do I stay open to a relationship and how do I judge when it would be okay to ask someone out, or make a move, or what have you, and how do I judge when to just try to be friends with someone? I’m having a hard time answering this, because so far it just feels like every guy I meet is a potential mate until I decide otherwise or have sensed that he’s not interested. I’ve gotten the “a relationship will come about when you stop looking” line many times in the past, and I’m kind tired of hearing it because I don’t think that it is true (have had periods where I wasn’t looking and no one magically appeared, and conversely know friends who have found relationships with active looking) and the fact is that I do want a relationship. I just feel like I need some advice on how to relax about the whole thing, and how to even judge when it’s worth letting a guy know that I’m interested. And how to deal with a situation where I let someone know that I'm interested and get a negative reply from them (do we keep being friends, for example?) Any anecdotes from your own experience or advice that you might have is appreciated. Thanks!