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Fairness and compensation
March 7, 2013 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I feel that since older, attractive, successful guys get so much love already, I shouldn't like them. It just feels unfair, so much so that I try to deny my feelings and COMPENSATE by liking the opposite. This has terrible results. How do I stop thinking like this?

I am 23 years old. It seems like I attract a type of guys... younger, don't really have their life together, unambitious. They are younger than me-- so they are 18-20 years old. (I know that most young guys don't have their lives together, but the type of guys I attract are especially lazy and undecided.)

When I had really low self-esteem, I used to convince myself to like whoever likes me, and I still tend to do this. In fact, I convinced myself to like a (younger, not together) boy in order to NOT like this really great guy who I actually liked. I felt like it's "unfair" that poor or less successful guys get less love, and I thought I could be "fair" and balance things out. It is really wrong and not at all the way to go about relationships. I've learned that these younger and lazy guys who like me turn out to be cheaters or have a dim future... In other words, not worth my sympathy.

I do not want to attract these lazy younger guys anymore because 1) their liking is wasted on me, b/c I don't like them; 2) I feel sympathetic and want to be nice to them, but this leads them on. But when I am cold to try to cut off the attraction, it also feels unnecessarily rude.

What can I do to not attract this type of guys? I wonder if I give off a Mom vibe. Partly I feel like they might see me as a sugar mama, because I am fairly stable and on my way to being financially independent (but young enough to be a dating interest). When I give them attention (just through daily interactions at work or school), they seem to start to like me.

1) What can I do to stop this pattern of thinking/ trying to compensate by who I like?
2) What can I do to stop attracting this type of boys?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just remember that it's okay to love the lovable. It's okay to like the likable. I mean, that's really the only definition of them. Remember that it's okay to be fair to you and your own preferences. You're allowed and supposed to have a say in who you spend your limited time with. It's not rude to say to someone you're not interested in that you're not interested. It is rude to waste someone's time.

Don't be nice. Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods" has a great line that always spoke to me. "Nice is different than good." Don't be nice. Be good. This means being honest with yourself and others with what you want. When you start communicating that clearly, you will weed out the people you're not attracted to.
posted by inturnaround at 7:01 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Another thing to think about is that this, In fact, I convinced myself to like a (younger, not together) boy in order to NOT like this really great guy who I actually liked, isn't really "fair" to the younger guy since you're just using his attention to get over somebody else.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:15 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The thing is, if you genuinely don't like someone because they are poor, that's kind of shitty. But if you don't like someone because they either are demonstrably lazy and a moocher or have incompatible life goals (they want to work at the copy center while starting out as a writer and living in a rented room; you want to buy a house), then you shouldn't date them, no matter how much they like you.

It's worth pushing on your romantic preferences if they are...well...kind of shallow - if you are only drawn to football heroes with lots of money and a modeling contract, or investment bankers with bespoke suits. But it's important to distinguish "unconventional guy who might not be appreciated as much as he deserves" from "person who has big character flaw/big incompatibility or just hasn't grown up yet and thus isn't attracting lots of girls".

I've found it helpful to spend some time thinking about the partner I would like to have, rather than looking at the people around me as if I absolutely must pick one by 5pm today. What do you want in a partner? I found that once I clarified that I wanted someone who could hold a steady job, had some intellectual interests that overlapped with mine and had women friends, that really helped me narrow down the field.

Although I know that shopping metaphors bear their own perils, consider how much easier it is to buy a shirt if you think "I would like a blue shirt in a natural fabric that I can wear on the weekends" than if you think "I have no shirts, I need some kind of shirt".
posted by Frowner at 7:17 AM on March 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


You don't give much detail about what you do or who you hang out with, but I'm guessing you're attracting that age range simply because that's the demographic you happen to be around. You mention school: are you in college, or do you work at one? Does your workplace employ mostly students and young adults, or is there a wider age range? It could easily be that you'd get just as much attention from thirtysomething guys if you worked or hung out with them.

As far as feeling obligated to like the fixer-uppers: keep in mind that no one wants to be loved out of pity. If you date someone just because you feel sorry for him or feel like he deserves a shot at a relationship, you're not really giving him the relationship he deserves; you're actually preventing him from finding someone who loves him for who he is. And, you know, poor and "unsuccessful" guys get in relationships all the time.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:25 AM on March 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know it's an askme trope, but therapy really helped me to understand that wanting what I wanted was the only way to be honest, and that trying to fix others (never works! only builds strife and adds to feeling like a failure!) while feeling responsible for the inequity of the world (not actually true for Anyone) was destroying me. It helped immensely; I wish I'd gone when I was 23 instead of 33.
posted by ldthomps at 7:34 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


How do I stop thinking like this?

It's a askmetafilter cliche, but the solution to how to rewire your thought processes to adopt different patters really is therapy! I mean, that's practically the definition of what therapy is supposed to be for!

What can I do to not attract this type of guys?

Stop hanging out in forums where you will encounter them. I was hard for me to understand when I was younger, but you really can be selective about what social environments you hang out in and what kind of friends you make. Not only can you, but you should!
posted by deanc at 7:50 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


You are not a vehicle for the apportioning of karma. Your feelings are what's most important. Of course, we sometimes prioritize the feelings of those we care about over our own. But there are situations where that is healthy, and situations where it isn't. We also want to show people their value and gifts and potential, to help them see in themselves what we see in them. That's natural. But A) those gifts have to actually be present in the other person, and B) they have to be capable of seeing what you see in them.

In fact, I convinced myself to like a (younger, not together) boy in order to NOT like this really great guy who I actually liked,

I think part of the issue is vulnerability. When we open up to someone, when we let ourselves care for them, we make ourselves vulnerable. It's always a risk, because you open yourself up to getting hurt (not just by them not feeling the same way about us, but in them not being able to receive what we're offering). But, with the right people, its a risk worth taking because the rewards can be so fulfilling. Ask yourself if you're afraid to let yourself be vulnerable to the really great guy, because if he rejects you, it hurts way more than if younger, not together doesn't work out.

You're also making all kinds of assumptions about Really Great Guy. Lots of people look like they have their shit together, but really don't when you get in close. Not that they're not worthwhile, but NOBODY is perfect. This approach is not doing anyone any favours: not you, not Really Great Guy, not Not Together guy.
posted by dry white toast at 7:52 AM on March 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


If you feel sorry for losers, remind yourself that either they're not good partners (e.g., cheaters, &c.), or that they are and they will indeed find love even without material success. I tend to date sensitive guys who put introspection before success, even though I am generally a little more practical than that, and I guess you could say I "take care" of some of them, but I like it and it works well for me. Among that group, there are some keepers and some not. So if they are genuinely being good guys who would make good partners, they'll find someone who likes being the practical underpinning of their (responsible) head-in-the-clouds personality. If they're just lazy moochers, they obviously don't deserve your time!
posted by stoneandstar at 8:11 AM on March 7, 2013


I think part of the issue is vulnerability. When we open up to someone, when we let ourselves care for them, we make ourselves vulnerable. It's always a risk, because you open yourself up to getting hurt (not just by them not feeling the same way about us, but in them not being able to receive what we're offering). But, with the right people, its a risk worth taking because the rewards can be so fulfilling. Ask yourself if you're afraid to let yourself be vulnerable to the really great guy, because if he rejects you, it hurts way more than if younger, not together doesn't work out.

Also, so true. It's hard to make yourself vulnerable to someone you really like-- much easier to be worshiped by someone who is grateful you're playing nanny to them.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:12 AM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There seems to be a large middle ground between older, successful guys and young asshole losers. There is something about people who aren't already winning each of life's lotteries that appeals to you, and it seems to me that you don't have to abandon your attraction to underdogs (if that's what it is) entirely, simply by thinking about how you could improve your chances of meeting young men who have some ambition, ability to plan, and seem to be on the way toward getting their lives in order.

Since this is somewhat rare among young me, as you point out, it should be plenty easy to recognize.
posted by Philemon at 8:13 AM on March 7, 2013


I shouldn't like them.

This is an irrational "should" thought, and not a fact.

I wouldn't worry too much about attracting people. These guys aren't going to fall apart if they're attracted to someone who isn't attracted back.
posted by callmejay at 8:25 AM on March 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Just because a guy likes you, it doesn't mean you have to like him back. Ever. In this world or the next. I had to wrap my head around it too, but there it is.

If a guy asks you out and you're not interested, just be polite and say, "Thanks for the offer, but I'm not available." He can read into that whatever he wants. The more you do it, the more comfortable you are with it.

Think of it as a change in your preferences. You used to like going with the younger, foot-loose and fancy-free dudes, now you don't. You've moved on. And it's OKAY!

Now you like a dude who has his shit together. That's okay, they'll like you back for the same reason!

Perhaps do a little ritual. Something that will banish the losers and help you attract the kind of guys you want to date. (Google it, you'll find something.)

Even if you're not witchy, there is power in doing a ritual. It helps you shift some circuits in your brain, and gets you right with the world.

Take a piece of paper and write down all the qualities of your perfect mate. EVERYTHING! Nothing is too stupid or silly. Boxer Briefs instead of tighty whities, write it down.

Save the paper and refer back to it. As you meet guys and get to know them, re-read it and see how they stack up. If they don't. Throw them back and keep fishing.

Everything takes practice.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:49 AM on March 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


You have no responsibility to be the Mother Teresa of pussy. Your sexual and romantic life needs to be about what you want, not about dispensing the gift of sex and romance to whoever you think needs it most.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:18 AM on March 7, 2013 [12 favorites]


I was going to say that you don't have to play Sister of Mercy to losers and Nice Guys, but Sidhedevil said it better.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:24 AM on March 7, 2013


I had a friend who once said of him "but I don't love him in that way, it's completely agapé," meaning, completely... charitable? I'm sure he would have been thrilled to hear that she saw him as someone to do good to?

Here's another thing: if you like someone, especially someone with outwardly higher social status than you (older+successful+male) you are in even more of a one-down position because of the infamous "principle of least interest". Add to that, the way women are trained to pursue and cater to men, and you are at risk of getting your heart trampled and no mistake.

If, instead, you focus all your love as agapé/charitable projects towards men who are inferior to you socially (younger+unsuccessful) and in character traits, you'll always be superior. You're better than them.

So, do you want to be superior or do you want to be happy?
posted by tel3path at 4:23 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think part of the issue is vulnerability. When we open up to someone, when we let ourselves care for them, we make ourselves vulnerable. It's always a risk, because you open yourself up to getting hurt (not just by them not feeling the same way about us, but in them not being able to receive what we're offering). But, with the right people, its a risk worth taking because the rewards can be so fulfilling. Ask yourself if you're afraid to let yourself be vulnerable to the really great guy, because if he rejects you, it hurts way more than if younger, not together doesn't work out.

This. This this this. I know it's already been quoted once, but I'm quoting it again, because....this.

I spent my entire twenties and part of my thirties operating the way you do. I told myself I was just a really good person who didn't want to hurt anyone and wanted to give the underdog 'a go'. Took me until 40 to realize I was protecting MYSELF. It benefitted nobody, and I ended up alone because of it.
posted by Salamander at 5:51 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a song about "no scrubs" for a reason. Slackers are looking for someone to take care of them so they don't have to grow up. You do not have to be their girlfriend/mommy out of pity. Humans are generally evolved to like people who have jobs and enough cash to live on and their lives together for a reason--it makes your life harder to have to spend it covering the cash for someone who can't be arsed to work and just plays video games all day.

Trying to limit who gets attracted to you can only work so....not great. I would say to interact with slackers AS LITTLE AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN. Just a friendly female face around in a dude's vicinity (even if she's not flirty) seems to be enough for a lot of guys to decide to likey-like you. Don't give them sympathy, don't encourage them, don't smile and be friendly and inviting. Yes, this means you have to be rude, because some folks will take any crumbs they can get from you in that way. Sorry. I know it's hard and they'll probably call you a bitch. But...yeah. That seems to be how life goes.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:44 PM on March 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel that since older, attractive, successful guys get so much love already, I shouldn't like them.

Well, is that really true? Maybe on average those guys get a lot of love, but there are individual older guys who don't have someone in their life to love despite being attractive and successful. Maybe they tend to attract people who don't have their lives together and would be delighted that someone as fabulous as you likes them.

It seems like you are making a lot of decisions about who to date based on this one premise, and if you can see that differently maybe it will change your whole pattern.

You're distressed to be attracting a certain sort of person, but you probably attract a lot of men who don't fit that mold as well. Accept that you are attractive and you are going to attract all sorts of men. You don't need to feel bad about not liking some of them, since it would not be reasonable for them to expect you'd like back everyone who likes you -- where would you ever find the time to do that!

I feel sympathetic and want to be nice to them, but this leads them on. But when I am cold to try to cut off the attraction, it also feels unnecessarily rude.

You realize that it isn't kind to lead them to believe you like them, but it feels rude to be cold. But surely these young men would like to meet someone who likes them back -- if they were aware the best course of action would be to redirect their efforts, that would be a better outcome for them and you. You need not be cold, simply tell them that they aren't your type.
posted by yohko at 12:34 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stop watching TV, maybe? I don't mean to be snide, but when you're as young as you are, most of your perceptions about what dating is and should be like have been formed by the media, not by experience. I've noticed that on TV, when a male protagonist makes a play for a woman who isn't interested in him, she rejects him in the most crushing, belittling way possible. Her character is never a sympathetic one. Her lack of desire renders her a bad person.

What some people never figure out is that these stories are crafted by unreliable and deeply embittered narrators. These are stories written by writers who never got over being turned down for the school dance in adolescence, back when boys and girls alike have a callous disregard for other people's feelings. The word "No" does not have to be said with disdain or even disrespect. You can be a grown-up about dating, even if some screenwriters can't.

You're not a sex charity. You deserve someone who is your equal. There are lots of 20-year-old ambition-free female World of Warcraft players who still live in their mom's basement. Let these guys date those women. They can really relate to one another!
posted by cirocco at 4:20 PM on March 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


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