It's not only opposites who repel...
September 30, 2008 12:42 PM   Subscribe

Why do I keep attracting people (for relationships) who are incompatible with me? Why do I have trouble attracting those who are?

I did a search and there are already a few posts that are similar to my first question. I want to focus more on my second question, it’s the part that REALLY concerns me, and I haven’t located any similar posts in the past.

I consider myself pretty open-minded. I wouldn’t mind dating people of different races, classes, life experiences, ages, or even religions or political ideologies (as long as they aren’t too extreme in their views). But there’s one thing that I want me and a partner to have in common --similar interests.

I can’t seem to find anyone who has similar tastes and lifestyles for the life of me! Well, I’m finding them, but they are almost never interested in me. It’s the NUMBER ONE reason why I have such little relationship experience.

Whenever I locate someone I’m interested in, I do what most people do…engage in small talk. I like to observe people before, before I approach them. Sometimes this process take minutes, sometimes weeks. Some people I already know, some people I’ve just met. Whenever I find something we have in common, I approach them about it.

I usually get one (or more) of four responses:
1. When I bring up a common interest, they change the subject.
2. They flat out lie about not being interested in the subject, or claim they used to be but not anymore. Thankfully, this rarely happens.
3. More common: They find something to disagree about, and focus on that difference instead of focusing on what we both like. Or I constantly get one-upped.
4. Most common. I’m flat out not believed. I hear comments such as “Wow, you don’t come across as….”, “You’re kidding me, you can’t be serious about this”, “You don’t strike me as…”, “I never would’ve guessed in a million years that you liked…”, or “Ohhh, realllly? *followed by an eye roll*”. The conversation either dies out, or the subject is changed.

Example for #3: I used to be really into the band Incubus. I found out that the guy I was interested at the time, that he was a huge fan of Incubus also, more so than me. I named my favorite album…and was told that it was THE WORST album Incubus had ever put out, and everyone he knows agrees with him. Then I went back to discussing the band period, but he went back to how awful that particular album was.

Another Example for #3: I found out another guy I was interested in really liked Italian food and is into many local music scenes in our state. One day the subject of colleges and college towns came up, I mentioned that I liked so and so college because it is located by several good Italian restaurants and have a good local music scene. Instead of us having a conversation about that, he said that ***** university really really sucks, and he doesn’t understand how anyone would visit the place. He claimed that the college had a very bad basketball team and every thing in the town closed to early. When I tried to get him back on subject, he said that despite the good restaurants and local music scene, he could not get over the fact that someone would like that place.

Example for #4: I was in a sorority for two years in undergrad. In one of my grad school courses, the whole class discussed the pros and cons of Greek life. A guy I liked revealed that he was in a fraternity during undergrad. During class break, I told the guy that I used to be Greek too. His reaction was “OMG. You are kidding me! I totally do NOT believe that you were once in a sorority!” and then he went on to ask details about other classmates who were Greek! Later on in class, I kept catching him giving me stolen glances, as if he was trying to decide if I was telling the truth.

Another example for #4: A girl (who’s a friend) I’m currently interested in, is vegetarian just like me. She said “Wow, you don’t come across as a vegetarian AT ALL!” For some reason she does not acknowledge the fact, despite I told her many times. Like when we go out to eat, she asks me what *insert meaty entrée* do I plan to order.

All four of the people above, I have tried to connect with them (on different things) on NUMOROUS attempts, but I keep getting similar responses. And that's just four of the people who treat me that way. The funny thing is there are many men and women, who I don't have so much in common with, respect me for both our differences and the few similarities we have, and pursued me for relationships.
posted by sixcolors to Human Relations (55 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
But there’s one thing that I want me and a partner to have in common --similar interests.

I think that's your problem. What's the point of dating someone with your exact interests? You might as well just date yourself. I suggest your re-examine why you consider similar interests so important. All of your examples seem to suggest that you want the people you spend time with not only to have similar interests, but to agree with everyone you say (yes, this album is great, yes, this restaurant is great). Speaking for myself, sitting around talking about pre-determined topics everyone agrees on is seriously boring, and I would probably handle things the same way your friends did. Interesting conversation is much wider than finding common ground and staying put.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:53 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


What's more fun than telling someone their favorite band sucks? Contraryness is a minor-league sport in many rock scenes, and it isn't always hostile. Often it's an invitation to conversation: "No, your favorite band sucks! My band rocked so hard last week. They can kick your ban's ass!"

People make conversation in different ways, and they almost certainly don't mean to hurt you. "Wow, you don't seem like a ..." may be their way of finding out more about you. Try not to take it personally. You can instead ask them about their lives/interests and they may catch on that you prefer answering questions to parrying assertions.
posted by abirae at 12:55 PM on September 30, 2008


If you consistently get this exact same reaction from many different people, then you have to consider the fact that you are the common denominator here. It's something you are doing, not them. I would suggest that you might be a little over-sensitive to perceived slights. The fact that someone didn't think you beloned to a sorority really isn't, objectively, that big a deal.
posted by footnote at 12:56 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some people are contrary, and sometimes being contrary is the way to have a conversation. When I see a film I love and talk to someone who also loved it, often the conversation will wend around to what we didn't like - what should have been different - how another movie did it better - because that's something to talk about, right? Just saying "it was good!" is boring, and doesn't illuminate anything. "Disagreeing" is a way of engaging with a subject - and "one upping" is a way to have fun, and *sometimes* both conversational methods are ways of flirting. If someone says "I don't believe" or "you don't seem like" - take the bait! Don't *argue* or think that they're accusing you of lying - ask them well, what are sorority girls like? or what is it about me that says 'carnivore'?
posted by moxiedoll at 1:01 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


You really need to grow up some and accept the fact that other people have different opinions than you and there's no need to defend your own every time its brought up. Others may not remember anything about you at all, including your food preferences.

They find something to disagree about, and focus on that difference instead of focusing on what we both like. Or I constantly get one-upped.

Stop taking it so personally. Stop defending every little fad you've enjoyed. Learn to be an adult. Learn to be diplomatic. Learn to let criticism not get to you on a deep level.

In others words, instead of saying the world is incompatible with you, you must make yourself more compatible with the world. Next time someone says they dont like your band or your shoes or whatever say "To each his own." Try to find other common ground. Dont focus on the negatives. Don't mentally paint yourself as a victim. Tell yourself these trivial things are far from important. Viva la difference.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:06 PM on September 30, 2008 [8 favorites]


I've been with my wife for 12 years. When we met, we had essentially nothing in common. 12 years later, we've grown quite similar personality-wise, but still have very, very different interests. We're happy.

Trust me, you'll be a lot happier if you let go and stop trying to figure out exactly what you have in common with potential romantic partners. Nothing broadens your horizons like being with someone who forces you out of your comfort zones, drags you to events you think will be boring, and makes you eat weird food.

You can be happy with almost anyone as long as you're both willing to compromise. That means sometimes going to the opera, ballet, Thai restaurant, judo competition, etc. Don't over-analyze relationships. If you look too closely, any relationship will fail. There's a certain suspension of disbelief required for two different people two get along.
posted by paanta at 1:07 PM on September 30, 2008 [2 favorites]


s/two/to/

good lord.
posted by paanta at 1:07 PM on September 30, 2008


Could it be your delivery? Maybe there's something about the way you broach these common interests that puts people on the defensive or makes them think you might be suddenly changing the subject or making stuff up in order to ingratiate yourself. Or maybe these people are responding in a way that seems to them to be a friendly continuation of the conversation ("A sorority? You? I never would've believed it!") but that you misinterpret as an attack or rejection, souring the discussion and making them feel like something weird is going on.

The sorority example seems particulary telling, actually. Here a guy you're in class with responds to your statement in a way that reveals he'd thought about you enough to have an opinion on your personality, then "steals glances" at you for the rest of the class? There are multiple ways to interpret that, and they don't all involve hostility.
posted by contraption at 1:07 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


In others words, instead of saying the world is incompatible with you, you must make yourself more compatible with the world. Next time someone says they dont like your band or your shoes or whatever say "To each his own." Try to find other common ground.

That's the very problem. They aren't accepting my advances in my attempts to find common ground. I tried to find other common grounds, it didn't work. It gets very frustrating. The guy in the first example, I bought up a dozen different subjects that we agreed on, but he decided to be critical or one-up me instead. He's seldomly that way with other women.
posted by sixcolors at 1:18 PM on September 30, 2008


I think that's your problem. What's the point of dating someone with your exact interests? You might as well just date yourself. I suggest your re-examine why you consider similar interests so important.

It doesn't have to be exact, but I want to date someone I can relate to. Furthermore, someone I can to things with. I have briefly dated people who I didn't have much in common, those relationship just didn't go anywhere.

What's more fun than telling someone their favorite band sucks? Contraryness is a minor-league sport in many rock scenes, and it isn't always hostile. Often it's an invitation to conversation: "No, your favorite band sucks! My band rocked so hard last week. They can kick your ban's ass!"

I welcome contraryness, as long as people aren't being mean. Both of those guys were contrarian, but they were far more contrarian to me than anyone else.

If you consistently get this exact same reaction from many different people, then you have to consider the fact that you are the common denominator here. It's something you are doing, not them. I would suggest that you might be a little over-sensitive to perceived slights. The fact that someone didn't think you beloned to a sorority really isn't, objectively, that big a deal.

The reactions themselves aren't that disturbing, it's the context. I strongly suspect that I am being stereotyped. I can't think of any other reason, why I get these reactions. No, I don't wear vegetarian buttons or bumper stickers, have long matted hair, and wear thick black framed glasses...but I'm still a vegetarian. I'm not a girly-girl at all (BIG sorority stereotype), but I still became a member of a sorority. As for people who are contrarian, I have no idea what's behind that behavior.
posted by sixcolors at 1:19 PM on September 30, 2008


You seem to be judgmental and a bit of a snob. You are not at all interested in the differences between people, which are legion, and very interested in similarities, which always break down under examination. Disappointment reigns thereby.
posted by rhizome at 1:20 PM on September 30, 2008 [7 favorites]


They find something to disagree about, and focus on that difference instead of focusing on what we both like. Or I constantly get one-upped.

If you're having a conversation about music with a music geek dude, be prepared to get into some sort of disagreement over what music sucks and doesn't suck. When he says you happen to like the worst album of a particular band, you're supposed to defend your choice and explain why he's an idiot. Don't take it personally, it's not that he really thinks you have bad taste in music, it's just that he enjoys debating the relative merits of S.C.I.E.N.C.E. versus Morning View. For more examples just watch movies like High Fidelity or any Kevin Smith film.

I don't want to get all "Guys are like this, and girls are like this, AMIRITE?", but this is an area where there is a clear difference between men and women. Men tend to be very combative in their conversations, whereas women are more supportive.

Dumb arguments like the ones you mentioned form the basis of male social behavior. Have you ever heard two six year old boys arguing? They are almost always in the form of "My X is better than your X", with the end result being that one is "Infinity times a million" better. The subject matter isn't really important, it's the act of using communication as a sort of battle of wits that is the underlying motivation. You can decide to either play along or not, but don't confuse a combative conversation with someone not liking you or not sharing your interests.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:20 PM on September 30, 2008


When I was in sixth grade, I tried to make friends with a girl in the locker room by enthusiastically observing that we both used the same variety of Teen Spirit.

It didn't work.

Also what didn't work: a guy on a second date, when I had already mentally checked out, asking "So, do you like soup?"

Shared interests may get the ball rolling on a friendship or relationship, but they only get you so far. Being able to talk to someone about a variety of subjects (including things that may only interest one of you at first) and ending up with a conversation that both of you enjoy and learn from is a far more reliable indicator of how you would get along. What's the point of liking the same kind of food if you can't have a good conversation over dinner?

Another thing to think about: often, the interests that partners share develop as the relationship does. My closest friends and I have a lot more things in common now than we did when we met.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:22 PM on September 30, 2008


It sounds like maybe you are trying a little bit too hard. Reading your post I'm hearing a very earnest OMG WE HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON LET'S BE BFFs!!!!!!* kind of voice, which can put people off. It sounds a little bit like you're seeking these people's approval, by liking the same band they like or being a vegetarian just like them!

It's not so important that you share similar surface interests (your music & nightlife preferences will change over time) than sharing similar values & principles. Which you won't know until you get to know a person better anyway. Solid relationships (platonic-romantic-familial-whatever) are based more on mutual respect than common interests.

Why are you not interested in the types of people who pursue you?
posted by headnsouth at 1:24 PM on September 30, 2008 [4 favorites]


With regards to #4, it sounds like you're very eager to find common ground with these people, and they might be sensing that you're trying really hard to ingratiate yourself to them, and reacting negatively to that. You could try being a little bit more aloof... just mention a fact about yourself ("Oh, yeah, I used to be in a sorority too. Anyway...") and then drop it. If the other party is interested in discussing it more, they'll probably ask for details.

As for #3, is it primarily men who find something to argue about when you bring up your interests? If so, they probably think they are being witty, or negging you. My brother and my boyfriend both delight in making girls feel bad about the stuff they like, and they seem to think that it makes women strive even harder to win their approval. It's really, really obnoxious, but I think it's a dating strategy that a lot of men of our generation try to employ.
posted by arianell at 1:25 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


It doesn't have to be exact, but I want to date someone I can relate to. Furthermore, someone I can to things with. I have briefly dated people who I didn't have much in common, those relationship just didn't go anywhere.

That has less to do with not having common interests and more to do with an inability to find common ground. You don't have to like the same bands to appreciate another person's musical taste. You don't have to be a party animal to admire someone's gregarious nature. Do you see where I'm going with this? People are more than the sum of the bands they like and the food they eat. They are their personalities and their communication styles and their intellect and so much more. Look deeper to find the things that really make relationships work, because no band is it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:29 PM on September 30, 2008 [5 favorites]


That's the very problem. They aren't accepting my advances in my attempts to find common ground.

Then you should be producing the olive branch in this scenario. Next time someone says they dont like your music, dont get upset, say, "Interesting, can you give me some mp3s of the bands you mentioned earlier. I'd like to listen to them."

In any human meeting someone must make the first initial difficult moves. In these cases it should be you. You need to be a lot more flexible then you are. This is true in short-term casual relationships and doubly true in long term relationships. Get out of your comfort zone; try to be pleasant while doing so.
posted by damn dirty ape at 1:30 PM on September 30, 2008


he decided to be critical or one-up me instead. He's seldomly that way with other women.

With all due respect, who cares? The getting to know someone part of the dating song and dance is generally about figuring out whether you have any chemistry or not and it looks like the answer in these specific instances is "not" That's okay, I don't click with more people than I click with too, and really all it takes is one person you click with and you're off to the races.

You seem to be trying to figure out some sort of math that will allow you to make the right move and get the right response. This is appealing and I wish I could do it myself but people are fickle [which is why we want to be with them instead of at home with books, at least sometimes] and they just don't act the way we think they should. No one owes you any real response to your advances except some level of politeness (if you subscribe to etiquette) and it's sort of up to you to figure out of they're not responding in an affirming way and go advance on someone else.

So, to gently go along with what people are saying, you seem to take people's reactions to you hard. I can imagine it would get totally tiring having to fend off the "no really I'm a vegetarian" thing [I get that a lot, people can't imagine I'm NOT a vegetarian] but on the other hand, people interact with other people differently. You seem to work yourself up to talk to people in a fairly precise way and then get really huffy when they don't take your overtures in the manner you intended them -- trying to spark up a decent conversation -- and my guess is that is totally visible to the person you are talking to.

To change the approach a little my Mom can do that. I'll be talking about blahblahbla and all of the sudden she'll make a face. A subtle face but a definite face. And I'll be like "what?" and she's like "nothing" and if I think about it enough I'll be able to figure out what I was talking about that made her go all in-her-head judgey on me (co-sleeping, for example is somethign she disapporves of but she thinks she's polite about it) and I can see it. So, there may be a point at which people say "oh hey you don't look like you're in a sorority" [as their own way of making conversation] and then you make that face and no wonder they're staring at you.

So, to sum up, it may be just you or it may be a few unrelated instances. Some people are just negative and it seems like you've come across a few of them. If you're a thinky type and it seems like you might be by the amount of thought you've put into this, this may be a hard problem with trying to link up with thinky people. When we talk to people we know little or nothing about we often go on what we can see in addition to what they tell us about themselves. That's another part of your approach that you can have some effect on.

It's totally okay to want to have similar interests with people, but you have to aslo be aware that while that may be your value, that may not be the value of others who share your interests. Dating websites are sort of made for people who are like "I like Incubus and I'm a vegetarian and those things are important to me" and you might want ot check out that direction as well as what you're currently doing.
posted by jessamyn at 1:35 PM on September 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


Despite what's been said above, it sounds like you are meeting a lot of people who have bad manners.
posted by softsantear at 1:36 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


You sound very sweet and genuine in this post, but it seems like you may be coming off as very fake and annoying (and not very unique) in real life. In all of these examples, you already knew what these people liked and then you tried to prove that your interests aligned with theirs. This is what you're doing:

You: "Hey new friend, I hear you like poetry. I like poetry. I bet you can't guess my favorite poet. I looooove Whitman!"
Potential Friend: "Uh yeah. Poetry's great... Whitman's okay."
You: "Ok?! He's the greatest! I loooooove poetry! I thought you said you liked poetry. We have that in common - see?"
Potential Friend: "Okay. Wait, how did you know I liked poetry?"

Usually, common interests come up after you've already been friendly with someone, and they may or may not be important to the friendship:

Potential friend: "Man, this class is boring. Poetry was so much more interesting when I was an undergrad poetry major."
You: "Omg, I was a poetry major too!"
Potential friend: "Wow, really? Where did you go to school? Blah, blah... nothing about poetry. We should go get a drink."

Stop trying to figure out what you have in common with everyone! I think it may be weirding people out a little.
posted by jrichards at 1:48 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's the very problem. They aren't accepting my advances in my attempts to find common ground. I tried to find other common grounds, it didn't work. It gets very frustrating. The guy in the first example, I bought up a dozen different subjects that we agreed on, but he decided to be critical or one-up me instead. He's seldomly that way with other women.

You are making a million critical mistakes but one that stands out is that you assume that this person should be interested in you the way you are interested in them. I'm sorry but attraction doesn't work that way - if it did, the music scene you seem to adore would not exist. The people you are approaching aren't you - they don't think the way you do, they don't act the way you do, they don't approach the world like you because they aren't you. It sounds as if you are having a hard time understanding that other people do not have the same head/brain/mental capacity/social understanding that you do. They are others for a reason.

And, honestly, your example with the frat guy is interesting. While you automatically assumed that the guy was questioning how honest you were, most people would assume that the person would be checking them out and interested in you. You were assuming the worst - that they would not believe you and you couldn't get past the point that maybe they do believe you. You're missing quite a bit of social cues or interpreting them to the point where you will never get a date because you mistakenly think that they interpret all social cues like you do. The problem is not that these people aren't picking up on your vibes - the problem is that you don't really understand the other vibes other people get because you are stuck in your own head and assuming that everyone else is just like you. They're not.

Once you figure that bit out and start applying it to your everyday life, your common interests will get you somewhere with people you are interested in.
posted by Stynxno at 1:48 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think that your mindset is still getting in the way of what you want, sixcolors. You seem to have this mental framework where people who think differently from you are not just different, they're alien. Instead of trying and failing to have an epiphany about why people think the way they do, assume there's a good reason you'll figure out as you get to know them.


Most common. I’m flat out not believed

I'm not so sure it's precisely that. Listen to arianell.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:51 PM on September 30, 2008


It's not so important that you share similar surface interests (your music & nightlife preferences will change over time) than sharing similar values & principles. Which you won't know until you get to know a person better anyway. Solid relationships (platonic-romantic-familial-whatever) are based more on mutual respect than common interests.

One of the few people I met, who we were compatible AND were MUTUALLY interested in...was a girl I met on an online dating site. When it came to background we were so differerent...but we had many similar interests. When we discussed those superficial interests, often times the discussion went deeper into attitudes that we shared, what we wanted out of life, and what we were afraid of. That's the kind of connection I'm looking for, I use the "interests" things to bridge to deeper discussions, but I seem to can't get past that first stage. Maybe I am making the mistake of associating tastes with values and principles, or doing a poor job communication how certain tastes may be associated with certain values. Example, I assume many Incubus fans relate to what Brandon Boyd writes in his songs. Maybe that isn't the case, some may just enjoy the music.

Why are you not interested in the types of people who pursue you?

I just don't think it would work out, it hasn't in the past, and I don't know how much I would enjoy myself with someone who has completely different values and principles. Friendships fine, but in relationships I'm nervous. My parents are completely different people, so they don't spend a lot of time around each other. I don't want my relationships to turn out like their's.
posted by sixcolors at 1:54 PM on September 30, 2008


My first impression upon reading the question is that they're trying not to get drawn into a conversation with you.
posted by PFL at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2008


Could it be that your appearance doesn't match your personality? I think that I, for instance, look a lot more conservative than I am.

Some people think that "appearance" should be a dimension of personality, like "introversion".
posted by amtho at 2:00 PM on September 30, 2008


My first impression upon reading the question is that they're trying not to get drawn into a conversation with you.

I absolutely agree. I didn't even want to finish reading the post (sorry). You remind me of an old friend that I try not to spend time with - she is highly sensitive, analyzes everything, won't let anything go, perpetuates conversations that have already died a slow and agonizing death, and is generally not a lot of fun to be around.

My advice? Just relax! Let them do the talking and only interject when you see a similarity to draw upon, since for some reason that seems to be important to you. My guess is that you'll eventually meet someone who has no similar interests, discover you really like them a lot and will wonder why all of this mattered to you so much in the first place.
posted by meerkatty at 2:05 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


My analysis:

1. You're taking things personally when you shouldn't be. Maybe "Oh I hate that album!" is merely a contribution to the conversation at hand.
2. You hang out with a lot of hipsters. They looove telling people why their favorite band/album/restaurant/part of the city sucks. Are you in your mid-20's? The hating is strong with that age bracket of hipsters.
3. You might come across as clingy/pushy with this whole "we have something in common!" direction.

I understand what you mean about wanting to date someone with common interests, but don't force it.
posted by emd3737 at 2:08 PM on September 30, 2008


Based on your posting history, you seem paranoid, impulsive, attention-seeking, judgmental and utterly self-involved. Most people don't value these qualities in a potential partner -- although you do stand a good chance of landing a reality show.

So, are the people who I seek to date. :)

The guy in my first example was paranoid and judgmental as hell. The girl in my last example and the one I found on a dating site are incredibly impulsive and attenion seeking, in fact those are some of the things I find attractive about them, never a dull moment and they would probably be good in bed.

Some of the people I find myself incompatible with are actually very stable and religious, and have tried to (re)convert me. That makes me very uncomfortable.
posted by sixcolors at 2:12 PM on September 30, 2008


Example, I assume many Incubus fans relate to what Brandon Boyd writes in his songs. Maybe that isn't the case, some may just enjoy the music.

This is a bad assumption. Go ahead and assume that the vast majority of Incubus fans identify with the lyrics - it's probably true - but it doesn't *mean* anything. Everyone experiences whatever the lyrics are about - love? longing? alienation? rebellion? - I don't know anything about that band but I'm *guessing* it fits into the same themes as pretty much all rock music and it doesn't matter. Two people can have the same favorite band - favorite novel - identify with the same characters in the same movie and have nothing in common whatsoever. Listen to what people here are telling you - similar tastes can be a jumping off point, but generally relationships (romantic and otherwise) have nothing to do with liking the same things, and your misapprehension might have you pursuing the wrong people and not bothering with the right ones
posted by moxiedoll at 2:12 PM on September 30, 2008


Could it be that your appearance doesn't match your personality? I think that I, for instance, look a lot more conservative than I am.

Yes, yes, and yes. I dress pretty "plain", I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl, going by my appearance I don't look like I fit into any paticular subgroup of people.

Until I get to know people somewhat, I just like to blend in and fly under the radar, I think once I open up people get confused because some of the things that I reveal may not match my previous easygoing demeanor.
posted by sixcolors at 2:18 PM on September 30, 2008


Why are you not interested in the types of people who pursue you?

I just don't think it would work out, it hasn't in the past, and I don't know how much I would enjoy myself with someone who has completely different values and principles.


I'm interested to find out more about these people who pursue you. They have completely different values from you but are still drawn to you like moths to a flame? That's pretty cool.

I don't know what the clash of values in question may be, but if they are are attracted to someone who seems so different they are at least open minded. Perhaps you are more alike than you think. Why not give some of these poor souls a chance?
posted by abirae at 2:20 PM on September 30, 2008


Forget about trying to get people interested in you, or trying to push the conversation towards a particular interest.

Ask questions, and then ask questions about the responses. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say, and in what you can learn from them. Do *not* be interested in proving that you have something to say yourself.

(Caveat: Some people, myself included, don't want to answer questions in general. But then they'll respond by asking you things instead, which still makes a conversation happen.)

Also, why is it a bad thing to surprise people? Keeps 'em on their toes, I think. Good, but not really unusual, that your entire personality can't be divined from a two minute examination of your appearance.
posted by nat at 2:32 PM on September 30, 2008


I'm interested to find out more about these people who pursue you.

I seem to attract those who are:

*Very religious
*Anti-social, as in being very introverted. Like complete homebodies, who like to watch TV with their dogs every night. Nothing wrong with that at all, but I'm completely the opposite. I love socializing and meeting people, going out, and just doing a lot of active stuff. I NEED a LOT of social interacion for the little sanity I do have. I also need a lot of physical activity.
*Anti-social, as in crazy sociopathic assholes. Like men who are in and out of jail, does hard drugs, grand theft, and would beat anyone into a bloody pulp. Really scary and thuggish guys!
posted by sixcolors at 2:34 PM on September 30, 2008


I don't mean this in a rude way, but if you would like to use superficial (as in, surface) likes/dislikes as a basis for something deeper, maybe you should keep trying online dating sites?

Where else can you find a list of likes/dislikes which force that to be the basis of your burgeoning relationship? Like many others in this thread, I do not think that happens in real life.
posted by shownomercy at 2:40 PM on September 30, 2008


Not to make light of your plight, but your interaction reminds of me of conversations you see in the Sims, where character A will approach character B and ask something to the equivalent of "you like money?" And B may say "I like money!" And a little green plus sign will appear over both of their heads, showing that, by golly, their relationship has improved.

Hey, if you were a Sim, you'd be doing great right now.

Unfortunately, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but I don't think basing relationship potential on one's love of Incubus, or Sims-like interactions, is the most efficient strategy. I know it sounds crazy, but one's interests--even one's deep commitment of Incubus--is bound to change over time, even within a few months. And even crazier, just because somebody loves Incubus doesn't mean they are a good match for you.

These are often better barometers of connection-potential, such as:
- sense of humor (do you "get" them? do they "get" you?)
- energy levels (are they hyper or mellow)
- sensitivity (or lack thereof)

the list goes on.

You know, I have a best friend who loves a band I completely hate. A big source of fun in our relationship is my poking fun at that band. (In a gentle way. Sometimes.)

IMHO the way you are approaching people is all wrong right now. At least in terms of building lasting and stimulating relationships. You might as well focus on hair color and whether or not they have attached earlobes.

So to wrap things up, my suggestions:

- I think you might have better luck if you begin to appreciate the many types of people you meet, and everything they bring into a conversation. Try not of force any relationship. Just seem happy to be around them, and focused on their interests, and I can almost guarantee that most people will enjoy being around you.
- I get the sense a practice like meditation, or just getting some exercise, or involving yourself in some sport, will help you out. You sound on-edge, and your edginess might be carrying over into your conversations with people. You need to find a way to burn off your excess energy.
posted by uxo at 2:42 PM on September 30, 2008 [6 favorites]


You know, if you're attracting the stereotypical bland religious type it might be because your idea of conversation is frankly tame and bland itself. The fun exciting people don't want to sit around agreeing on everything, it's much more fun to have a "that band sucks!" "no, you clearly have terrible taste!" conversation, where it's actually dynamic. It's not fun when the person you're talking to gets huffy when you joke around.

If snarky vegetarian girl goes, "Oh, so you're gonna get the chicken?"
and you go, ">:\" she might be baiting you, but you end up in a bad mood and everything is awkward in general.

If she says that and you reply, "Oh, actually, I butchered a baby cow just this morning so I'm super full. I think I'm gonna get the salad." you can frustrate her if she's just trying to be bitchy, and show that you're cool if she just has a jokey way of interacting with others.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:42 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Taking a look at your previous AskMe questions, it seems like you have some concerns about your social interactions in general. One possibility is that you might want to examine those more general issues and you'll get some answers about your interactions with these people.
posted by KAS at 2:44 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Okay, maybe skip the sociopaths. But religious folks and introverts can be cool. Maybe they are attracted to your vitality and rebellious streak. Maybe you ignite the hidden freak inside them. Religion sometimes masks some really weird stuff.
posted by abirae at 2:44 PM on September 30, 2008


As a great Marxist once said: "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."
posted by abirae at 2:48 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


You analyze someone and then corner them. It's a powerplay and it intimidating and responses 1-4 are common defenses against such things.

Stop digging into peoples heads and minds. You observe their interests and then adapt. People will notice and it will put them off.

Stop trying to fit in with the people you like and be yourself and everything will be fine.
posted by uandt at 2:52 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


These people you're writing off as "not compatible" - are they creeping you out, acting like stalkers, or otherwise behaving inappropriately? Or are they just too different from your mental picture of what someone you think would be a good match for you would be like? If it's the former, then yes, avoid them, but if it's the latter - well, look. You only live once and you're clearly not having any success with your supposed "good matches," and yet there are these people who like you for who you already are. Give 'em a shot. You don't need to promise them anything, just go on a few dates and keep an open mind. You might be surprised at what happens next.
posted by bettafish at 2:53 PM on September 30, 2008


Reading your post, my reaction was and sortof still is -- "These people are immature dickheads. Why are they going off on you as they are?"

As I've read the responses to your posts, I still have some of that lingering. But I do trust this here hive pretty much, and probably they're seeing something that I haven't.

We can absolutely agree upon this: The one thing in common in all of these situations (drum roll) -- You.

One of the hokiest platitudes I've ever heard spit out to or at someone in your kind of bind: "It's either something you're doing, or something you're not doing." It makes me want to choke the person spitting it out. But they are correct. Smug assholes, yes, usually. But correct.

That's really annoying.

So. You've got an assignment, from life: Find out what it is that you're doing, or not doing, and start doing it, or quit doing it.

Or. "Lower the standards, on with the conquests!" And old buddy of mine used that line as closing time approached in some of the sleazebag bars we used to hang out in, lo those long years ago. It is a fact: The girls do get prettier at closing time.

Or. Maybe learn to let the river flow, quit chasing this down. Accept that you've not got a date this Friday, or next, you're not going to get laid tonight. Hard truths. But they might not even be truths; you can't really find out until Friday, next Friday, or later tonight, respectively.

I know, I know -- all your friends have dates to The Cotillion, you're at home with some horseshit movie and a vibrator. One of the best lead sentences of any book I've ever read is Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled: "Life is difficult." It is.

Or can be.

I'm sorry you're hurting.

I wish you peace.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:55 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, a lot of these comments seemed really aggressive. It sounds to me like you're doing your best to be friendly and try to make friends--good for you. And as softsantear said, it seems like you've met a lot of people with bad manners.

I'd like to have more friends that have interests in common with me, but it doesn't seem to work out that way most of the time, unfortunately. So I appreciate your problem. But I do love my friends and love having them around, and I do enjoy dating people who introduce me to new things. Maybe think of it as a bonus?

As for approaching people, I just read this excerpt from a journal article about how people bond. Maybe it'd help if you tried this tactic:

"Study 3 established that discovering a shared negative attitude about a target person predicted liking for a stranger more strongly than discovering a shared positive attitude (but only when attitudes were weak)."

It's not as nice as starting off with positive, shared interests, but if you already know you have something in common with the person, it might help you start off on the right foot.
posted by timoni at 2:56 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have noticed that people who are both very earnest and very aggressive at getting their interests across to others tend to attract the religious types, who are fervent in their own beliefs. You may just be trying too hard.

The best advice I can give you is to ask not us but your friends--not the people you want to hook up with, but the people you regularly hang out with--what they think the problem is.

They know you, they've seen you interact with the people you're attracted to, and they can tell you, if you ask them for honesty.

It might be something as simple as, "You make people uncomfortable because you corner them and start talking so earnestly at them that they want to run away," which is VERY fixable. Or it could be, "You are going after totally rude jerks and it's not your fault at all."
posted by misha at 3:21 PM on September 30, 2008


It sounds to me like you're doing your best to be friendly and try to make friends--good for you. And as softsantear said, it seems like you've met a lot of people with bad manners.

I sort of agree (but would hasten to add that there is a strong thread of social dissonance in all the OP's questions, and none of these will be solved without addressing that underlying problem with social interactions).

But rather than blame it on "people with bad manners," of whom there are many in this world, I'd turn that around. I'd suggest that rather than focusing on superficial interests in common, you instead look for and spend time with people who have really good manners, who are welcoming, who make you feel good.

Whether or not they listen to Incubus doesn't matter — what does matter is that they have a style of talking and relating that makes you feel valued and connected. The truth is that if one wants to, one can find points of connection with anyone, no matter how little there appears to be in common at first. I can sit down with someone who is uneducated, illiterate, who has never traveled, who married young, who doesn't speak English — someone who, in other words, couldn't be further from myself — and by talking and laughing find out that we both love our families, we both enjoy working with our hands, we both like crude jokes, or whatever.

You're inverting things: you are looking for the shared interests first, and hoping to find connections from that, when in fact most often it works the other way around. You try and connect, and from that you might discover shared interests. Cart before horse, and all that.

I seem to attract those who are:

*Very religious
*Anti-social, as in being very introverted. Like complete homebodies, who like to watch TV with their dogs every night. Nothing wrong with that at all, but I'm completely the opposite. I love socializing and meeting people, going out, and just doing a lot of active stuff. I NEED a LOT of social interacion for the little sanity I do have. I also need a lot of physical activity.
*Anti-social, as in crazy sociopathic assholes. Like men who are in and out of jail, does hard drugs, grand theft, and would beat anyone into a bloody pulp. Really scary and thuggish guys!


The common denominator here is you. What are you doing that is attracting such socially dissonant people? Are they seeing you as one of them? (That's my guess, given the social discord expressed in your questions.) Are you incapable of setting boundaries, and these people are walking all over you? Something else entirely?

Whatever it is, it is within you, not in the people around you; you will only change this by changing yourself.
posted by Forktine at 3:31 PM on September 30, 2008 [3 favorites]


Whenever I locate someone I’m interested in, I do what most people do…engage in small talk. I like to observe people before, before I approach them. Sometimes this process take minutes, sometimes weeks. Some people I already know, some people I’ve just met. Whenever I find something we have in common, I approach them about it.

This stood out to me. Basically, it seems as though when you encounter a stranger, your first instinct is to do research about them before you actually get to know them in person. I think that's hampering your ability to actually get to know them, because you go into your interactions with them with preconceived notions of who they are and what they should be like.

Instead of trying to figure out who they are based on your observations, why not just jump in and talk to them? Don't try to force conversations towards particular topics; just introduce yourself, ask questions, talk about yourself a little, and find out what's up with them. That way, you'll be able to determine whether you're compatible with someone based on actual knowledge of them. Plus, your conversations with them will be more natural and fluid, which I suspect will relax them and cut down on some of the weird reactions you've been getting.
posted by decathecting at 3:38 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


One other thing: sounds like you're taking your first steps towards the art of socializing. Congrats.

For total noobs (like myself), How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie, has been very VERY helpful.

Yes, the book is old-school and quaint, but human behavior and psychology hasn't changed all that much in 80 or so years.

Buy a copy or find the complete text online.

People who are "naturals" at socializing may scoff at reading Carnegie's manual, but for people who've never learned the invisible rules of socializing, it's been a lifesafer.

The main point made in the book is that the biggest mistake we make in socializing is that it's "all about us."

Good luck!
posted by uxo at 4:32 PM on September 30, 2008


My question about how you dressed was actually a suggestion - if you dress differently than you "are", then realize that people are going to have to guess at your personality at least a little bit before they get to know you. Your style of dress is a bunch of clues that they *must* use - it may seem superficial, and of course it is in a way, but on the other hand *you* are choosing these clothes (hairstyles, shampoo scents, whatever), putting them together, spending time or not spending time on this form of communication. It's a legitimate way for people to form a first impression, and if you're intentionally or unintentionally sending confounding signals, then it bears additional attention.
posted by amtho at 8:13 PM on September 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just another quick vote here that your definition of "compatibility" sounds a bit off to me - ie having identical tastes in certain things.

I think it's far more important to have complementary (note: not necessarily similar) "energies", eg in terms of things like introversion/extroversion, active/bookish, sense of humour, work-life balance, leisure activities, a whole raft of things like those, that go far beyond taste.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:19 PM on September 30, 2008


Have you read "How to friends and Influence people" by Dale Carnegie...I mean I am pretty sure you are a very personable lady and probably have no problems making friends but one of the tenants of the book is that in order to "really" attract people you have to be really "interested" in what the other person brings to the table...not just what a person brings to the table that might be good for you (in this case it may be a commonality). I used to think like you (I mean god knows I wish i had someone to watch that Sarah Palin debate this Thursday) but attraction truly works in strange ways and I stopped making sense of it and just tried to make it work with whoever despite their likes or dislikes.....
posted by The1andonly at 7:12 AM on October 1, 2008


Everything people said seems salient, so just to be devil's advocate I will offer another possibility. If guys are doing this to you a lot, and you're under 30, there's a chance they're pulling the alt.fast.seduction shit method of "neg hits." I'm by no means stunning, but in college a lot of player-type guys I met at parties and friend-of-friends affairs would immediately say combative or backhanded compliment shit to me. For a while I was totally confused as to why young men at college were so fucking rude and/or socially dense, and then I found out about neg hits. Man, I was pissed. They don't have to be comments about physical stuff--if you're a girl who seems to have a lot of interests and enthusiasm, some gross guys will pick up on this and use neg hits about that stuff instead of your looks. Just walk away.
posted by ifjuly at 11:36 AM on October 1, 2008


A common favorite band has little correlation with compatibility between two people. So is being vegetarian or liking Italian food. It can help get things rolling, but I would not base my partner choices on their food preference. Try to focus on who they are, not a check list of common interests.

By the way, most people don't bother remembering other people's food preferences and diet choices. It's nothing personal.
posted by ye#ara at 1:09 PM on October 1, 2008


I think you're probably trying too hard. I've noticed that when people try to micromanage what they do/say in pursuit of a specific goal in social situations, they can come across as socially awkward, boring, or disingenuous, like they're insecure and trying to prove something, or a lot of other things that obscure their good traits.

Plus, you're necessarily going to be disappointed when you have those goals in mind and can't seem to reach them.

My advice is to not try, aside from just generally talking to people. Let the conversation go wherever, and if it's something you're interested in or know something about, contribute that. If the person is talking about something that interests them but isn't something you know much about, then listen and ask questions. Listening to someone talk about something they enjoy, especially if you don't know a lot about it, is a great and rewarding experience. You learn more about them and a new subject at the same time.

The things you learn about people from that sort of relatively one-sided interaction are things that I think you'll find important. For example, I have made a lot of intelligent friends that are interested in completely different "thinky" things than I am. By listening to them talk about things they enjoyed, I realized that even though I don't know much about those subjects at first, they displayed more general characteristics that I do like and need in friends: curiosity, humor, kindness, etc. They display a similar, yet different enough to be interesting, manner of thinking. We learn a lot from each other, and when I see them, they always have something new to tell me I wouldn't have encountered on my own.

I've also made friends with people who aren't interested in "thinky" things the same way: listening to them talk about the things they like, or their opinions on issues. They have the same characteristics as my "thinky" friends do, they just apply their energy to different things. If I tried to make friends based on specific interests, rather than wider characteristics, I would not have these friends. If I did not have those friends, I would also be a much more narrow-minded person, I think.

More than that, I have always made friends and boyfriends by making an effort to try the things they like. That ingratiates yourself to other people more than focusing on an already shared interest. For example, my fiance and I are pretty different on face. He likes a lot of physical activity and classical music and was pursuing a rocket science degree when we started dating. I wasn't much into sports or anything, I was indifferent to classical music, and I was a liberal arts major that was horrible at math and had only a passing interest in science. But I went to his soccer games, went hiking with him, went to classical concerts with him every week, and listened to him explain the engineering things he was learning and working on. And I actually loved doing all of it, and still do. It was because his love of those things was contagious, he was kind, he made me laugh, he was curious about the world, and we were fundamentally compatible because we think similarly enough. And he has done the same for me; he listens to me talk about books and movies and politics and is sincerely interested to learn more, he'll read books and watch movies he wouldn't normally and he almost always ends up liking them, he'll try weird food for my sake, etc.

So when I read that you're trying to get to know people through stuff like Italian food or Incubus, it seems to miss the point. I think the people you talk to might find that single-mindedness in conversation strange. Any person can like those things and it doesn't mean they're going to have a compatible personality. If you want people to like you, the conversation starter is whatever they like that you are unfamiliar with. They'll be thrilled that you're asking, and it will reveal a lot about them.

Sometimes it will be boring or they'll be a dick or display other qualities you don't like, and that's fine; the point is to find those things out. When you come across someone who talks about things you don't already know, and you find yourself interested, you've hit the jackpot.
posted by Nattie at 1:59 PM on October 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


I don't know how much I would enjoy myself with someone who has completely different values and principles

Shared interests do not lead to shared values and principles. If you want someone with shared values and principles, look for someone who shares your values and principles. You may need to articulate exactly what your values and principles are first (I´m not saying to post them here (although you might post them in an online dating profile), just that you need to be clear about this to yourself).

Based on your posting history, you seem paranoid, impulsive, attention-seeking, judgmental and utterly self-involved. Most people don't value these qualities in a potential partner -- although you do stand a good chance of landing a reality show.

Your reply: So, are the people who I seek to date. :)

There´s the problem, if both people in a relationship are attention-seeking and utterly self-involved, who are they going to get attention from? The problem is that you can´t provide the things that most people like you would want in a relationship. You need to find someone to dance with you in a romantic embrace of codependency, someone to agree with all your opinions, give you the attention you seek, and indulge all your self obsessive whims. I´m serious.

Your ¨interests¨ seem pretty superficial. What happens when you find a new band you like, or discover a new restaurant, and your romantic partner does not like it? If you find someone willing to mold themselves to your every whim, they will like it as you do. If you find someone just like you, they will be judgmental of your choice, and possibly disagree.

I don´t believe this is a healthy relationship model for most people, and I would not choose it for myself -- but there are people out there who will like everything you like just because you like it. They are going to date someone. Why not you? Perhaps you and another can be very happy with this sort of relationship.

I suspect that people of that sort are more likely than others to be religious, or more likely to be crazy as in ¨borderline personality disorder¨. Maybe you should try some of these folks who stay at home, perhaps they will be more at home in a social situation if they can hang out with you and let you do most of the talking. Perhaps they have been at home because they have no one who will lead them off to hear the wonderful band that they will think is just wonderful, or have not yet experienced the wonderful restaurant. Perhaps they just need to be shown a better way, your way.
posted by yohko at 9:49 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think I have miscommunicated a few things. It's fine if someone doesn't share all of my surface interests, I don't even think that is possible. The frustration comes in where I try to identify with people who make no effort to accept it, especially the fact that I try to meet them on their terms. I tried the asking questions route before, and got far more negative responses.

I do have interest in connecting with people on a deeper level as some has suggested in this post, but I'm not sure how to do this. Maybe more conversations about politics and current events, than music and food?

The reason why I am so bent on using this strategy is that I received a lot of past complaints from people that the reason why I'm not viewed as girlfriend material is that I am way too different from them.

But, I appreciate all the (nice) responses. I will take things that were mentioned into consideration, plus a few other things I suspect that may be the root of this problem that I didn't mention in this post.
posted by sixcolors at 5:36 AM on October 2, 2008


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