How to not scare guys off with my long term singleness?
October 21, 2006 7:36 PM   Subscribe

I turned 30 yesterday. My longest ever sexual/romantic relationship was 6 months long, and took place when I was 21. Since then, I've had several flings, one-night stands, and extended flirtations, but nothing even remotely resembling a real/long-term relationship.

There's plenty of reasons for this, mainly being stuff like: I'm afraid of committment (i've always convinced myself that someone becoming my boyfriend would immediately precede the world's hottest man falling for me, but finding me unavailable, choosing to not mention his attraction), a conviction that men mainly want to just use me for sex (I sort of have that large-breasted/ wild hair/'exotic' look that our society has decided means 'slutty and up for it'), and then, later on, a sense of inertia, in that I'm used to being single.

So: I've decided to get over my issues already. I've decided to force myself to date and just push aside the parts of my brain that tell me not to return phone calls after the third date, or to freak out when a guy mentions doing something that's more than two weeks away.

Problem is this: how do I tell someone that I'm currently beginning to date, if/when they ask (and they might, because its going well) that they are theoretically my first real adult relationship? (I'm way to old to have it just seem normal.) How do i not seem like weirdo or freak or just generally someone who must have something wrong with her?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think it's that terribly freakish to not have had an "adult" relationship at the age of 30. And I don't think your current interest would be freaked out by it. Congratulations on finding something that may be a "good thing," and enjoy it.
posted by TonyRobots at 7:53 PM on October 21, 2006


I'd go the "honesty" route. You'd be surprised at (a) how many people would understand your rationale and (b) how many people are in similar situations. I commend you for having the courage to seek out what is best for you and not what just comes easy. Best of luck.
posted by galimatias at 7:58 PM on October 21, 2006


I think there are a lot of guys who wouldn't be bothered by the fact that you don't have many "real" relationships in the past. And you don't have to get specific early on. By the time it "has to" come up, the person you're with will know you well enough, and be so into you, that it won't matter that your last serious relationship was when you were 21.
posted by jayder at 8:00 PM on October 21, 2006


If you really are looking for a longterm relationship, then it won't work it if it's not based on honesty, and it's not as if you've committed a crime or you're into S&M (no offense intended towards people who are). Your story just isn't THAT shocking. Just tell the guy your story, the way you told it here, and if he's a mature person, he'll be fine with it. He'll be flattered that he's the person you're willing to "change your ways" for.
posted by grumblebee at 8:04 PM on October 21, 2006


Yea, I don't think this is a big deal. Just avoid (1) making it a big deal, or (2) over-compensating for your past by implying that now you want nothing other than marriage and babies and old age together.
posted by raf at 8:20 PM on October 21, 2006


Problem is this: how do I tell someone that I'm currently beginning to date, if/when they ask (and they might, because its going well) that they are theoretically my first real adult relationship?

That's not actually the problem. This is the problem:

the parts of my brain that tell me not to return phone calls after the third date, or [that make me] freak out when a guy mentions doing something that's more than two weeks away.

You mention that you are just going to ignore those thoughts/inclinations, but I don't think it is as easy as that. I think you really want to go into your future relationships with an approach of not "pushing away" those thoughts, but confronting them head-on, thinking/feeling/talking your way through them. I also think you should be open and honest about these issues as things start to get serious with someone. Let them know that this has been a problem for you in the past, and that you are working on it, and may need their help from time to time.

Not having had many relationships is a minor curiosity (at least for me and many of the guys I have known), but the commitment-phobic, keeping-track-of-who-called-who-when, I-need-my-space bullshit is an absolute dealbreaker.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:34 PM on October 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


i had my first "adult" relationship at age 30 with an older man who'd had several relationships. It really wasn't that big a deal. I found that relationship experience wasn't as important as LIFE experience in being in a healthy relationship.

Don't stress over it.
posted by clh at 8:41 PM on October 21, 2006


anonymous,

it might seem to a casual observer as if we were similar people: we are roughly the same age, both our longest relationships lasted about six months and it's been a while back. I do however notice something that makes you drastically different from me: you seem uncomfortable with who you are and you're letting it be known.*

to answer your title question: plant the most diabolic smile onto your face and make the person in question understand that you like who you are. nothing is hotter than someone who knows what they want and actually goes for it. if you signal that it was an unfortunate accident that your life went the way it did, you will seem strange. personally, my alarm bells would be ringing and that little voice in my head would whisper major issues, which is the phrase that would make me run frantically (we all have minor issues and that's okay but something is really wrong if you for years you live a life other than the one you would like to).

it is okay to fly solo if you want to. it is okay to be promiscuous if you want to. it is okay to be a republican if ... okay, now we're pushing it but you get the point. if someone asks you about your life, make them understand that you lived. make them understand that you did what you wanted and that you had a hell of a time (or at least don't cry at night when you think of the previous years) and that you now feel like trying something else.

because in all seriousness - who would you want to be around? the person who regrets the last ten or so years and wishes it had all gone entirely different or the one who is looking forward to the future, open to whatever might happen next?

seriously. chin up. looks hotter, too.

so you are worried about rejection, freakouts and getting over it. you are scared of the unknown. fine, I understand, I have even been there. but next time that comes up ask yourself one question - what's the worst that could happen? in dating someone, it's probably someone telling you "fuck off, you nutcase!"

you know what? you're thirty now.
I think you could handle that.

happy birthday. have a shot on me. a shot, not cider.

(*=I on the other hand am convinced that I am hot shit and that the rest of the world just doesn't get it.)
posted by krautland at 8:53 PM on October 21, 2006 [5 favorites]


I would just be honest about it. In fact I was just honest about it when things got serious with my (now) husband.

I was 29 and hadn't had a relationship longer than 4 months when I met him. It didn't seem to phase him at all. In fact he made him feel pretty special to know that he was the one I was able to stand being with for more than a couple of months.

I will admit though that it was his hounding of me in the beginning which helped things along from my point of view - he kind of just made himself a part of my life without me noticing until I realized it was much more fun to have him there than not.

So don't think you're not normal. People need to do things in their own time. Any guy who is scared to deal with the truth that you have had some issues with committing to a long term relationship is not the guy you want to be with anyway.
posted by gomichild at 9:01 PM on October 21, 2006


Oh and Happy Birthday!
posted by gomichild at 9:03 PM on October 21, 2006


Say: "but I just never met the right person." Any man worth his salt who is at all into you going to be thinking "oh, that's so sad, honey... but I think your luck's about to change."

You are a weirdo, and a freak. In healthy adult relationships we finally own up to our weirdness, our freakdom, and work through the consequences of them right in the midst of our messy, ever-shifting coexistences. It's called love.
posted by nanojath at 9:04 PM on October 21, 2006 [4 favorites]


You know, a lot of us, for one reason or another, don't really get our shit together well enough to have an honest, adult relationship until we're around 30. So in that respect, don't think you're so special.

Don't make a big deal out of this with a guy unless you start slipping into past behaviors that make him wonder "what is up with hot anonymous chick?" If he asks (either because you start giving him the cold shoulder or because it comes up in conversation), talk about it honestly. By the same token, don't date a schmuck for an extended period of time just to prove you can go on more than 3 dates with someone.

Here's where real-life friends comes in. If you've got a guy that seems like legit LTR material, introduce him to friends you trust (this in itself will test your flight instincts, since introducing to friends is a small sign of commitment). Let them size him up. If you start getting skittish, ask them "is it me or is it him?"
posted by adamrice at 9:26 PM on October 21, 2006


Happy Birthday.
posted by Paris Hilton at 10:50 PM on October 21, 2006


tell the truth, but don't talk yourself down, take it easy, enjoy yourself
posted by londongeezer at 12:04 AM on October 22, 2006


nothing is hotter than someone who knows what they want and actually goes for it

Actually, I can think a lot of things that are hotter than that. Not that it is an undesirable trait or anything.
posted by grouse at 2:36 AM on October 22, 2006


Rock Steady wrote....
That's not actually the problem. This is the problem:
the parts of my brain that tell me not to return phone calls after the third date, or [that make me] freak out when a guy mentions doing something that's more than two weeks away.
You mention that you are just going to ignore those thoughts/inclinations, but I don't think it is as easy as that.


Amen.

You've been acting this way for a reason, and until you work out why you are going to have a very tough time in relationships. It's hard to be present with someone when part of your brain is constantly screaming "RUN AWAY!"

I would suggest some short term therapy on the topic. Your situation is not as uncommon as you seem to think, and you may be able to gain some insight as to what's going on, and some strategies for dealing with it.
posted by tkolar at 9:09 AM on October 22, 2006


Sounds trite, but someone who is genuinely interested in you and cares about you won't care about this. Seriously. Everybody has realized by this age that life is not the neat little package we thought it would be. Everybody is either going through something or has been through something, and they allow the people they meet this same kind of space and forgiveness. And at this age, too, people are happy to find someone. It's not as easy as it was when we were younger. So as others have said, go in with confidence, focusing on the now. If he asks, tell him. It'll come up sooner or later. No real need to go into much detail, though. The point is that you're ready for a relationship now and are going to give it a shot.

PS- many many guys are over the wild oats thing by this point. They're thinking about more substance too. So if you're an exotic hottie, that'll be a fantastic bonus for him and his friends will high-five him at first, but it won't be the main or only thing. He's going to be thinking about life and fulfillment, unless you shop for vapid bottom-feeders, that is. Speaking of that, I assume you're letting go of the world's-hottest-man fantasy and are yourself more and more interested in substance these days, right? Good!
posted by kookoobirdz at 9:46 AM on October 22, 2006


How do i not seem like weirdo or freak or just generally someone who must have something wrong with her?

it's not like guys don't understand the phrase "I have commitment issues", really. don't worry. they know what you're talking about. they key fact here is, do you like them, or not so much?

sometimes people feel like they're "condemned" (if at all it can be considered a bad thing, but I don't want to derail) to spend their lives in not-so-deep relationships.

then they get married and lead happy long lives with the, ahem, cliche alert, right person. good luck.

don't worry. don't be afraid and don't sell yourself short -- you sound way too smart for that, so I'm sure you won't have any problems in the end
posted by matteo at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2006


Everyone has baggage -- things they're carrying with them from previous relationships. If you don't have baggage, then your lack of baggage is your baggage.

It's basically the same kind of baggage I have, actually, except I'm even older than you. The horror!
posted by kindall at 11:45 AM on October 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I think I would find it as a plus that you've "done your own thing". Your answer (at this point, anyway) need not be a full disclosure of the reasons you feel you've avoided commitment. You can get across that you just haven't been looking, and you also feel that (until now maybe) you hadn't come across anyone you were really interested in, right? It could be just me (probably not), but it would be seriously attractive if a girl I was casually dating had not been in a relationshps because she was just comfortable being single.

If you have the look you say you do, and the guy-in-question has made any type of assumption like you say he could based on your appearance alone, then this info will definitely be good to know for him. Not that you should put too much into the "I have a certain look to me" theory. You're 30, and your peers should not be judging you based on looks. We're [guys] not all bad.
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 7:48 PM on October 22, 2006


btw: I actually am curious as hell to see who you are, anonymous. (oh shite, did he really write that? well, yes.)
posted by krautland at 9:47 PM on October 22, 2006


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