Feeling like a lame duck in the dating pond
November 14, 2012 4:39 PM   Subscribe

How to make sense of dating?

Anonymous because I don't want this associated with the details I've shared under my username.

Relevant details: Straight, female, mid-twenties.

First relationship (around 8-9 m) ended toward the end of last year, then backslid (twice! good job, me) and dated some more on and off until things finally ended for good two months ago, when he moved away.

I've done the no contact thing for the past two months and things have been improving, but I feel like I'm the type who needs to find someone new to really move on from the last one. I'd love to meet someone "organically" out in the "real world" but I didn't have much luck there (though that might be because I was going to the wrong places). SO I tried putting up an okc profile and have gotten a lot of messages. Many of them are really nice (even if I don't find myself attracted to them) but I just don't have to time to respond to them all. I responded to two guys and went out on dates with both of them. The dates went well and I wouldn't mind going out with them again--the problem is, I probably won't be able to set another date with either until 1/1.5 weeks from now (extremely busy work deadlines and thanksgiving). That doesn't sound too bad...but in the meantime, I'm really having trouble mustering the interest to maintain communication. I don't particularly feel like texting them or reaching out. I'll respond and talk on the phone if they call, but I'm rather unmotivated on my end. I really did have a good time on the dates and would totally go out again, but I don't know if this lack of motivation means I'm not really interested or I'm just unused to this and need to exert some effort.

Worse still, putting myself back in the dating arena is inevitably leading me to draw comparisons between new guys I meet and my ex. I would really really rather not think about him, I think I'm still getting over it and I feel the best when I imagine him not existing at all. Unfortunately we work in the same field and have many many mutual friends and despite blocking him on everything some tidbits of info still slip in. I keep trying to distract myself from thinking about him and his new life/gf but that, combined with the work stress and dating stuff, is just making me feel more like I have no idea what I'm doing while everyone else has their shit together.

I guess my question is:
1) I'm totally lost with the dating thing. What do I do if I'm down with seeing them again but feel unmotivated to maintain contact in between in-person dates? Do I try going on more first dates? Dating is weird.

2) This stuff with the ex just takes more time right? What can I do to stop these thoughts from popping up as I'm trying to move on?

3) Did you ever feel like you were stuck in a dating rut/stuck on an ex and how did you change that? How did you move forward and meet someone else?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
but I feel like I'm the type who needs to find someone new to really move on
Ask yourself why that is. Work on making yourself feel whole instead of looking for ex's substitute.
posted by Neekee at 4:44 PM on November 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


1. I mean it doesn't take that long to make contact with someone. If you like them let them know. :) Some of the busiest people in the world make time for their S.O. Or maybe you just really don't feel like spark in you where you wanna talk to them more. If you both date longer and it doesn't change I would be worried. You are putting effort into thinking of your ex, so I see no problem with replacing them with someone else. It's not like you've been single for a month then moved on to someone else. It has been awhile.
2. I still think of ex's from years ago when I go certain places and see and hear different things. They just have less of an impact on my emotions then they did say, a month after a breakup.
3. I'm not sure what you mean by dating rut, but do you mean getting over them? Yeah it took awhile. I did date some people while trying to get over them. Sometime the people couldn't make me forget about my ex and sometimes they did. Doesn't mean it is unhealthy to date someone new and forget about your ex. I would put thought into remembering how you should be treated by the new boyfriend and what you can learn and teach each other.
posted by Autumn89 at 4:51 PM on November 14, 2012


1) I've always struck out with online dating, so I can't really help you there. Maybe keeping it up is a symbolic victory, to prove your own datability to yourself.

2) YES. More time. Develop an effective substitution thought: every time you think of your ex, instead think about llamas doing a kick line. If that doesn't help, put them all in sequined superhero burlesque costumes. Or multiply two prime numbers in your head.

3) I swore off intimacy for a year afterward, but then I figured out that I was just trying to punish myself for effing it up with the ex (which I hadn't reeeeally done, but they certainly tried to convince me that I had!). I had a handful of productive flings and crushes and then something serious came up. It also helped to deliberately switch my preferred gender for a long while, this may not be an option for you. However, you could deliberately date people who share exactly NO qualities with your ex. If they were a witty foreign-born mathematician, try volunteering at your local farmer's market so you can meet a nice home-grown boy who just doesn't *get* Monty Python but can play a mean banjo.

Hang in there. Be prepared to get hit over the head with the bittersweet cast-iron frying pan of memory on anniversaries or just important dates from the past. Thoughts occurring to you are not your fault. Just let them go. Hey look, llamas!
posted by katya.lysander at 4:52 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're not interested in making the effort towards these new opportunities because you're still exerting your "dating romantic energy" towards your Ex. It eats away at your motivation and drive.

If you *still* love your Ex, decide if you want to try to win him back, or take the healthy road and let time help you remove him from your mind.
posted by Kruger5 at 4:54 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll respond and talk on the phone if they call, but I'm rather unmotivated on my end. I really did have a good time on the dates and would totally go out again, but I don't know if this lack of motivation means I'm not really interested or I'm just unused to this and need to exert some effort.

It is really, REALLY hard for me to carry on a phone conversation (much less multiple conversations!) with someone I've only met once. In fact, I'm not very good on the phone save with very close friends. Weird, I know, but not particularly uncommon. If I were you, I wouldn't gauge my potential interest in these guys by how I felt about phone conversations with them -- not at this early stage, at least.

What do I do if I'm down with seeing them again but feel unmotivated to maintain contact in between in-person dates?

Say, "I'd love to meet up after the holiday! Work is really busy right now and I'm not much of a phone person, I confess -- should we get in touch after the holiday to set a place and time?" If the guy had a good feeling about the first date, he WILL get in touch.

Do I try going on more first dates?

As a former OKC user (and a big, big fan - my honey and I met through that site), my advice is: "Don't be in a hurry." Juggling a dozen first dates can be exhausting and will start to feel like a chore. See how these first two guys pan out. Put off the other interesting guys by saying, "I'd love to meet up but I'm actually crazy busy until early December. Can we get back in touch then?"

This stuff with the ex just takes more time right? What can I do to stop these thoughts from popping up as I'm trying to move on?

Don't fight the thoughts. Acknowledge them. Remind yourself that there's a good reason you're no longer together. Had you both wanted it to work out, it would have. And the first rule of a good relationship is: you both want it to work out. Ergo, yours was not a good relationship.

Meanwhile, keep an open mind about the people you're meeting. You'll never find another version of your ex. But eventually you will find someone who overshadows your ex so completely that you'll no longer remember why he seemed so damned appealing in the first place.

Did you ever feel like you were stuck in a dating rut/stuck on an ex and how did you change that? How did you move forward and meet someone else?

I did not feel stuck on my ex -- that relationship ended about two years after it should have. But I did feel stuck in a dating rut. I wasn't meeting people who interested me. Happily, my solution is the one you're trying: OKCupid got me out of my social circles and into the world. It took a few mediocre dates and a couple of truly ridiculous ones before I met someone with whom I clicked like I've never clicked with anyone else. I wish the same for you. I will tell you, my rule of thumb on that site was: If I liked the guy's writing/messages/profile, I gave him a chance. I did not gauge whether or not I would be attracted to him based on his photos. As a result, I got quite a few (often very pleasant!) surprises in person. Some people just DO NOT look like the photographic versions of themselves.

(...And, yes, some people post photos that are six years out of date. Ah, well. Sigh.)

Anyway, keep hoping, and never take any dates for granted. By that, I mean: always remember to look at these first dates as novel opportunities to meet people you might otherwise never have met. See them, first and foremost, as potentially interesting conversations. Enter the date with an appreciation for the other person's willingness to meet and chat with a stranger. If you adopt this attitude, no (safe and courteous) date, however "unsuccessful" it might be in the romance department, will ever seem like time wasted. It will, instead, have become an interesting experience.

I wish you the best of luck in love!
posted by artemisia at 4:55 PM on November 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


2) re: time. I guess the old chestnut "time heals" is true, but you can do things to speed up mending your heart. Mostly acceptance that life is a pretty unfair deal overall, and both you and your ex made mistakes because that's what people do. Doesn't make you or him undatable jerks. Plus, time never erases some things; mostly the loveliest and the worst.

You can't stop thoughts before you have them. But you can sit and observe the thoughts without reacting. As corny as this is, I imagine these thoughts as a conversation between my heart and my brain. My heart might still want my ex, or to hold on to memories, but my brain can rationally explain to my heart why calling him is a bad idea, or point out why we were incompatible. It's always a conversation framed as, "we both want what is best for peacrow!", never as my wants or needs are stupid or invalid. (I even drew cute cartoons of my mind and heart; it helped visualizing the back and forth.)

3. I think you are stuck on your ex more than a rut; you've had a few dates with many more potential dates. Not a rut. You are stuck on your ex and unenthusiastic about dating. It's really OK not to date right now. Sounds like you guys had a pretty tumultuous on again off again thing. Not only are you hurt and have lost a relationship, but you are probably emotionally exhausted. I didn't date for a year after my last ltr ended. I was not into it at all. I kept my life as drama free as possible to allow my emotions to settle and focused my energy inward. I focused relationship energy on growing friendships and engaging with my co-workers. Soon enough, I was ready to get out there again. There's no perfect timeline to come back from a breakup. On the other hand, I also have experience that getting under a new person helped get over an ex. It's really variable, even for one person. Don't do anything that doesn't feel right, right now re: dating.

Good luck!
posted by peacrow at 6:00 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Re: 1) I'm totally lost with the dating thing. What do I do if I'm down with seeing them again but feel unmotivated to maintain contact in between in-person dates? Do I try going on more first dates? Dating is weird.

There is no reason to have much contact between a first and second, or even third date. You are still getting to know each other, and it can be much easier to do so in person. I wouldn't worry about this one so much.

The in between contact will start to happen when you start to get more into each other and know each other better.
posted by Vaike at 6:28 PM on November 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sounds like you're preoccupied with your ex and it's taking all your energy. Give yourself time to forget, there's no rush.
posted by ead at 7:36 PM on November 14, 2012


If you're not motivated, then you aren't motivated. Just let things evolve naturally.
posted by empath at 8:21 PM on November 14, 2012


I don't think it's unusual to not have much contact between the first few dates. I'd say this has been more common than not for me and I don't think it reflects on motivation or interest level, just communication style. Once you get more comfortable with someone this may change, but I don't think it's something that has to happen off the bat.
posted by wildcrdj at 8:37 PM on November 14, 2012


Heh, if there's anything I can give advice on, it's online dating. I agree, it's weird, but fun once you get the hang of it and don't take it too seriously. It's also got an edge over IRL meeting people in some ways because a lot of guesswork is eliminated - if you're in contact, you know they're interested in you "in that way".

1) You're normal and doing fine, just keep going on more first dates - it gets less stressful with practice (i.e. repetition).
2) There will be lots of nice guys out there worth a second date, but for whatever reason, that second date doesn't happen. Don't sweat it if you don't feel like keeping up communication. No one owes anybody anything.
3) People get busy, holidays are an acceptable excuse too. If you end up wanting to get back in touch with someone, go ahead - you've got nothing to lose.
4) It's actually been better for me to think of first dates as just the introduction, making a new friend. 2nd/3rd/+ date - start assessing their kissability potential, and then fuckability if I'm so inclined. Don't worry about assessing them for actual dating potential until a few weeks in, and LTR potential a few months in. Don't get ahead of yourself.
5) Accept the high probability that, at any time in the first 3-6 months (depending on how fast you progress), things won't work out. No need to take it personally. You'll meet other guys soon enough. It's easier than job hunting at least.
6) On the same note, try to enjoy the experiences of meeting these guys, the new romance if it happens, and live in the moment instead of worrying about future potential - see (5).
7) Give people a chance, regardless of compatibility based on their profile. If you think they're cute and seem nice, give them a first date just to meet someone new -- doesn't have to be anything more than a quick coffee. I first met my fiance on a whim because I thought he'd be interesting to talk to, even if (I perceived) we had zero in common. (Totally how to break out of a dating rut, too!).
8) With some people, it just clicks - they're easy to get along with, things feel natural, and you slide right into feeling at ease with each other. Perhaps this is what you need to look for, what you need to feel like keeping the communication going. (Or time, more time on your hands. January could be better. Again, don't sweat it.)

The online dating thing also helped me move on from my ex better than anything. I was meeting guys who had qualities/interests similar to him, and couldn't help drawing comparisons for a while. But after you meet so many guys who like/do the same things, it's no longer unique and you stop associating stuff with one person specifically, you stop comparing. You also start noticing what little things *are* actually important/attractive to you, too.

It was also a good distraction and confidence boost; feeling like I had a busy social life, having a reason to get dressed up and feel attractive, and new guys were telling me I'm cute/sexy/intelligent/awesome. So that guy who broke my heart, who cares about him? all these other guys think I'm cute, and yet I'm turning THEM down. Ha.

TL;DR - yes, go on more first dates. Lots of them.
posted by lizbunny at 1:17 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


"putting myself back in the dating arena is inevitably leading me to draw comparisons between new guys I meet and my ex."

That's something only you can choose to do or not do. Every person you meet is unique. Don't try to replace your ex. Just try to meet someone you like.


"1) I'm totally lost with the dating thing. What do I do if I'm down with seeing them again but feel unmotivated to maintain contact in between in-person dates? Do I try going on more first dates? Dating is weird."

Dating should be fun, so, make it fun. Don't treat dates as interviews. Instead, treat dating as a way to meet new people and have fun evenings.

For example: I have a date Saturday evening. I'm not meeting up with this person to find a girlfriend. I'm just meeting up with her because it will be fun to chat over drinks. If it leads somewhere.... yay. If it ends up being nothing more than an evening of drinks and conversation, that's fine too since it's more fun to spend an evening doing that than spending the evening alone.

Learn to enjoy going on a date just for the fun of hanging out with someone new.


"2) This stuff with the ex just takes more time right? What can I do to stop these thoughts from popping up as I'm trying to move on?"

That totally depends on you. Anything you do to dwell on the past makes the time needed to get over it grow longer and longer and longer. After a long term relationship ends, I need about a month to break old habits, and then I'm ready to start dating again.


3) Did you ever feel like you were stuck in a dating rut/stuck on an ex and how did you change that? How did you move forward and meet someone else?

For me, it's all about breaking habits. I stop doing things "we" did together and replace them with new things for myself. Or, if one of my hobbies was something we did together, I give the hobby a break, or I find a new approach, at least for a few months.

Don't just be single. EMBRACE being single. Find ways to celebrate it.

The most important step is to stop viewing yourself as someone recently out of a relationship. Let go of the attachments you have to him and to the couple you were. Just be YOU.
posted by 2oh1 at 3:18 PM on November 15, 2012


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