How can I find/identify people who are open to dating rather than just hookups?
November 24, 2008 11:01 AM   Subscribe

How can I find/identify people who are open to dating rather than just hookups? I'm interested in dating, but I'm not interested in hookups or one-night stands. It's difficult for me to find guys who are on the same page.

I'm female, in my early 20s, in a major city. I've had a few relationships in the past, but I'm unattached, and I have been for awhile (not forever, but long enough).

Typically if I go to a bar/party/meetup/whatever, I will be approached by a fair amount of guys. My preference is not to approach, but it's not a big deal -- I don't have a problem with going to talk to a cute/interesting-looking guy if it doesn't seem like he's coming over. The issue is that although the guys are interested, they only want casual hookups, they're not in a space for possible relationships . . . they just got out of a long-term relationship, or they want to play the field, or they're too focused on their career, or whatever. It's fine for them, it just doesn't match with me.

My friends confirm that I come off as friendly, cool, and not slutty. Although obviously my type will never appeal to everyone, I guess objectively I'm reasonably attractive -- I do some modeling work (plus-size -- I'm a 12). I was definitely an ugly duckling, so my confidence in my looks isn't totally there yet, but it's on its way and I think I do a good job of faking the rest. My confidence in other areas is just fine (I have a cool career under control, and I have a handful of hobbies that I do pretty well at and am always learning more about). I don't dress provocatively -- I feel more comfortable when I'm hinting at my curves rather than showing skin. I don't think it's that the guys I meet only want hookups because of what I'm projecting -- I think that's just their interest in general no matter who the girl in question is.

I'm not looking to date in a desperate "I must find Mr. Right immediately" way. I really don't think the next guy I'm with will last forever, and I'm perfectly okay with that. So EHarmony is not the right answer! But I like finding good people and spending time with them, and although I like myself and I'm comfortable with being single, I'd like to do that with one person in an exclusive relationshippy sexual way. I'm just having trouble finding someone I like who's on the same page.

Although I'm in my early 20s, almost all of my friends are about 26-28, and that's what people usually guess I am. Guys 24-28ish seem to be about playing the field (who can blame them -- they're in their 20s in New York). I dated some older (early 30s) guys thinking they might be more interested in exclusivity, but their thought process seems to be "she's so young, she must only be here for fun." I am honest about what I'm looking for, and okay with discussing it, but I don't think people really believe someone's that guileless.

At this point it probably seems like the question is screaming for a "FWB!!!" answer, but friends with benefits doesn't really work for me. If I like and respect the guy as a friend, and am attracted to him, and start sleeping with him, it would lead to me wanting more than just FWB; if I find him attractive but I don't like him as a person, and I fool around with him anyway, I feel terrible afterwards. And again, I find casual hookups to be not what I'm looking for, and not really fun, and just generally not a good option for me.

So where can I find guys who are okay with exclusive dating? Or, in a normal environment (bar/whatever), how can I feel a guy out about that without sounding like I'm desperately seeking a giant rock and 2.5 kids when I'm really not interested in either of those?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I'm betting bars and clubs are the wrong place to look, for one thing. The expectation there is for casual sex. Try the normal AskMefi advice: volunteer groups, hobby groups, places like that for guy friends who can turn into more.
posted by Anonymous at 11:10 AM on November 24, 2008

I don't really understand how you are learning all these things about the psychologies of people you have just met in a bar. Do you actually have discussions with people you've just met about whether they're in "a space for possible relationships"? If not, then maybe you are just assuming this about them. A one-night stand is only defined as a one-night stand by the failure of other things to happen subsequently, after all.

Or maybe it is intrinsic to your idea of a real dating relationship is that it does not involve sexual things right from the start. That's your prerogative but in that case bars probably aren't the place to be looking.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2008

Seconding that bars and clubs aren't going to be the right place to find what you're looking for. What about online dating? You can specify that you're looking for dating, not hookups, and find guys who have specified that they're looking for the same.
posted by scody at 11:13 AM on November 24, 2008

If you meet a guy at a bar and give him your number, and he calls you later and asks you out to dinner, then he's probably interested in a possible relationship.
If you meet a guy out at a bar and he buys you a drink and asks you to come home with him, then he is probably not.

Just keep on meeting people, at bars, at parties, at activities, and some of them are bound to fall into the first category.

p.s. Most people I know go to bars to have fun, have a drink, and hang out with their friends. I think the whole bars = casual sex is mostly mythology, these days.
posted by emd3737 at 11:17 AM on November 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Join okcupid (free) and check the long-term dating box. Leave the rest unchecked.
posted by special-k at 11:26 AM on November 24, 2008

I'm just having trouble finding someone I like who's on the same page.

Isn't this the point of dating?

There is something about your question that is off. You try to come off as cool and collected. You try to come off as self-assured and self-confident but with lines about what you're looking for, what you're not looking for, etc - you seem, to me at least, to give off a vibe that you really are not as comfortable about your current situation as you claim to be. And it makes sense that you wouldn't be. You want a relationship and you would like it right now. So why try to act like that is something you don't want? And why come off with a tone where you seem to almost be apologizing not only for your own wants and behaviors but for the behavior of the guys you've met? Do you find yourself having to defend yourself for your life style wants? Guess what? You don't have to. There is nothing wrong with wanting an exclusive relationship and wanting it today. If there was, pop music would be very very boring.

Reading guys isn't easy - wait. scratch that. Reading PEOPLE isn't easy. The advice about finding different places to meet guys is okay except there are plenty of guys out there, no matter where they are, who just want a hookup. In fact, they will string you along for half a dozen dates till they get what they want (or not) and then vanish. There is no magic bullet to finding exactly the *right* person at the *right* spot. Instead of looking for the silver bullet or work on giving subtle hints to guys about what you really want, just be more upfront about it. If you're hooking up with guys, stop. If you keep finding yourself being approached by guys you don't want to attract, you need to start approaching guys and taking the initiative. Dating isn't necessarily a fairytale where the person for you just falls into your lap - a lot of times, it takes initiative, work, and YOU deciding what you want and actively going after it. If you can't approach guys in public, go online. Okcupid,, and other such sites are made for people like you. Be upfront with what you want. Don't have sex on the first date if you're worried about being a mere hookup. And if you're religious in anyways, there are plenty of large mega churches in NYC specifically targeted to 20 somethings and they are freakiing meat markets. You could always go there.

But, above all, I get a sense that you think it's strange for you to want what you want and for you being unhappy that you haven't received it yet (your question really didn't need that much backstory and, in a sense, is rather straight forward and it has been asked 1 million times - your adding backstory means something else is going on). Your worth getting an exclusive relationship, a giant rock, and 2.5 kids.
posted by Stynxno at 11:36 AM on November 24, 2008

In my experience (not scientific at all), the number of boys in their mid-20s who are actively seeking relationships is much smaller of the number of girls seeking the same. This doesn't mean that if a guy meets a girl he likes, he won't get into a relationship. So my advice is, instead of judging and giving pass/fail grades based on what they appear to not want in the first few encounters, give a chance to friendship first. After all, my partner and I met when he was "way too focused on his career" and I was "just out of a long-term relationship" and neither of us wanted anything to do with relationships.
posted by shamble at 11:36 AM on November 24, 2008

I had the same problem for a while, before I made myself promise myself that I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever sleep with a guy on the first date ever, ever again. It has helped.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on November 24, 2008 [3 favorites]

You sound emotionally intelligent and able to adapt to different situations. There are guys like this out there too.

Not all guys just want to play the field, but it might take a while to find someone you like whom you can feel comfortable with.

When you DO engage someone who suits you, set the tone. He will either be compatible or he won't.

I'm a 28-year old male living in a major US city. In my dating experience, I've met women who wanted to go fast and short-term, so I went fast short-term; I also dated a Mormon for a year, and that relationship went predictably slow in the sexuality department.
posted by hpliferaft at 11:42 AM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

emd3737 is right (though I disagree about bars being places to hookup, they can be if you are looking). You really won't know if the guy is looking for a relationship unless he doesn't look crushed when you say bye to him.

Even if a guy asks you for dinner, that doesn't mean he's looking for anything serious. Many of my friends (myself included) hope to hook up with girls from the bar. If that doesn't happen, the next best thing is to chat up a girl, get her number, go out on a couple dates with her, and then maybe hook up. If the girl is really cool and you match well, then a LTR might just happen. Most of the long term relationships I know started with a drunken hook-up.
posted by sandmanwv at 11:47 AM on November 24, 2008

follow-up from the OP
Oops, should've been more specific. "Where this could be headed" isn't something we discuss at the bar, it comes up after a handful of dates.

The story that led to this post: I met a great guy through the usual suggestions (mutual activity/volunteer/meetup type of thing), where he asked for my number. We went out to dinner, karaoke, the bar where he DJs . . . we met up a handful of times over two weeks. It turned out we had a mutual friend, who said to me the other day, "You know, [Guy] doesn't have any place to take you; he's still living with his ex." Wait, what? "Yeah, we talked the other day. He says since they just broke up he's really not in a place to date anyone, but he told me he thinks you're a cool person and he's really attracted to you so he's just seeing what he can get." (Guy did not know mutual friend would tell me this -- kind of high-school, I know.)

It seems like this is getting way too common. I think because of who I am, or what I look like, or whatever, guys who just want sex will still see me a few times before I realize, or they give up, or both.

For the record -- I don't sleep with anyone on the first date (or the second, or before I know what's going on, to be honest). I have a really high sex drive . . . but I'm a girl, and although it's easy for me to get myself off, it's not so easy for other people. The first few times I'm with someone, for the part when attention is focused on me, most of it is me going "I like that, but I love X, would you mind X?" That (plus attachment, STD concern, etc.) is one of the big reasons one-night stands or casual hookups don't work for me at all. I am totally into being honest about what I like when I know the guy is going to stick around to put it into practice, but if we only hook up once or twice, it really doesn't make sense, so it doesn't feel good for me.
posted by jessamyn at 11:57 AM on November 24, 2008

Join okcupid (free) and check the long-term dating box. Leave the rest unchecked.

I'm not sure I would suggest that. OKCupid also has a check-box for "casual encounters," so short-term dating is not code for "sex buddies" there. When people have *only* the long-term box checked, it kind of scares me away even though I'm not opposed to LTRs. But I'm female, and the male mind may work differently.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:05 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I concur with the others who think you're finding guys in the wrong places. Pretty much the only guys I've dated in New York were interested in relationships, not flings, and that's because I didn't find them at bars. So they ARE out there, but they aren't out there talking to single girls in bars. They're in book clubs, at coffee shops, at mellow concerts, at plays, playing with their dog in the park, or staying at home surfing the internet. You mention having hobbies; can you not meet guys through these hobbies?
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 12:05 PM on November 24, 2008

My wife and I met online. Initially I sent her a message on and she never wrote me back (jerk). Then about a year later she messaged me on myspace and we never looked back. That said, we both had a lot of fun with online dating, and both of us ended up in a few relationships along the way before finding each other. For the record, neither of us were looking for hookups or casual sex. So, I can't speak for okcupid specifically, but I happen to think that online dating is a great idea. Of course you are still going to find some bad eggs that claim to want one thing but are secretly out for another, but for the most part these services provide you with a unprecedented level of filtering that you could never hope to replicate in the field. :)
posted by fusinski at 12:27 PM on November 24, 2008

I'll agree with needs more cowbell - I'm male, and when I see the long-term box checked but not the short-term, it sets off warning bells. Fairly or not, it makes me think "shopping for a husband" as opposed to "dating, with an eye toward long-term seriousness." At least in my experience on okcupic, short-term dating is not code for just-sex.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:28 PM on November 24, 2008

Well, I met my boyfriend at a bar. He made it very clear to me that first night that he wasn't into one-night stands.

Actually, at least a half-dozen of the serious or married couples I know met at a bar or party.

I don't think there's such a thing as going to the wrong're just meeting the wrong people.

I read an interesting article in the NY Times about how women go to volunteer and hobby groups to meet men, and end up surrounded by other women looking to meet men. Go where the dudes are.
posted by girlmightlive at 12:43 PM on November 24, 2008

I always recommend Meet Up.
There are groups for pretty much anything you're interested in.
No, really.
Think of something you're interested in, and type it in the search box.
Go out, get a life, have some fun, and you might just find a super nice guy standing right next to you.
posted by willmize at 12:45 PM on November 24, 2008

As a fellow 20 something girl living in NYC, I can relate... In my experience, my friends in relationships either met their boyfriends while they were in school or through friends of friends. I have a couple friends who met through the internet, but they were all in their late 20's or early 30's at the time. I can think of one person I know who met her long term boyfriend at a bar. However, I could go on all week about the number of friends I have had meet guys in bars only to have a disastrous hookup/fling/5 dates that went no where fast. I've had a few friends meeting people at work, but this carries a whole new set of hazards. If your religious, I'd tell you to get to bible class (or whatever they call it, I'm an atheist it's been a long time since I've been anywhere near a church), I've had one friend more or less meet a guy through church (not directly, but it's a long story). But at the end of the day it's friends of friends of friends, once you are out of school that's basically where you need to look. It's slow and your social circle only can expand at such a pace, but next time your are invited to John's college roommate's friend's party up in the Bronx, it may be worth the trek.

In theory I know it shouldn't be that hard to meet some nice guy to date. You aren't asking for a soul mate here, but just a nice simple relationship where you can trust the guy and may not end up loving him forever and ever, but you have a good time together. However, in my experience this has only ever happened to me once. Ever. Almost without exception it's always all or nothing.

Also, if you are jewish you should join JDate, all my jewish guy friends are on there and are actually dating (not merely sleeping wtih) jewish girls they met on there (which if you knew them would shock you too).
posted by whoaali at 1:08 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure I would suggest that. OKCupid also has a check-box for "casual encounters," so short-term dating is not code for "sex buddies" there. When people have *only* the long-term box checked, it kind of scares me away even though I'm not opposed to LTRs. But I'm female, and the male mind may work differently.

You're right,I never thought of it that way. So yes, do check both short and long-term dating boxes.
posted by special-k at 1:16 PM on November 24, 2008

Well, I met my wife at a bar, so it's not so clear-cut that people that you meet in a bar are only into short-term flings. Dating is complicated, but (and please don't take this as being patronising, it's just a fact) you are only in your early twenties and have plenty of time to make mistakes. It's very hard to identify people who are into dating. Indeed I've been in the position (in my distant past) of wanting to have a long-term relationship but not meeting anyone that I wanted more than a fling with. So there are many variables.

I don't have any specific advice, but I have seen in friends of mine and indeed in my own experience that a lot of guys who play the field in their twenties actually get quite bored of this and want longer-term relationships by the time they hit thirty. That's not to say that all guys in their thirties are like that, but you seem emotionally mature, and most guys in a similar position are likely to be a little older. Of course there are exceptions to this, but I'm going on my experience and that of the majority of my male friends.
posted by ob at 1:25 PM on November 24, 2008

Ah, I love dating in New York. No, really!

Anon, your problem is 10% circumstantial and 90% state of mind. You dropped one veil of your anonymity by mentioning that the men you're around live in New York, and this city can make single women feel like they've been run through a meat grinder on their way to the meat market which happens to be in the Meatpacking District. Anyways, it's rough, because NYC is a playground for young men to act like overgrown, hormonal teenagers. Women too, but dudes really wring this city's obsession with sex and youth for all its worth.

I know a lot of women who get into a funk about dating in NYC because they feel like they're getting passed over for models (real ones in Manhattan, American Apparel ones in Brooklyn), or for cheap sex, or for the freedom of bachelorhood. I've been there too, and I licked my wounds a lot about it last year.

Then I went home to BFE Ohio where I grew up, and my friends who stuck around were still dating the same dudes they'd been with since ninth grade because there were no other guys in the town. Ha ha ha. Ha. So the worst part about NYC is also it's greatest advantage: this place is full of people. People people people. Sure, it makes some men run through women like tissue paper, and it means you have more competition, but do you want the alternative? There are so many freaking people in this city that at least 40 of them would date you long-term, and they are looking for you, too.

Everyone else is right: bars are not the place to meet your soulmate. How would you pinpoint your soulmate when they're drunk, surrounded by their co-ed friends, and milling around a loud, dark, impersonal setting?

Get yourself out of this funk, because the more you believe that your world is populated by assholes, the more you'll see them. Try an urban exploring meetup, or join a kickball league, or start walking dogs from the animal shelter (my personal boy-magnet), or flirt with a guy at The Strand.

This city is a real bitch to live in, but lack of love just isn't one of those reasons.
posted by zoomorphic at 1:26 PM on November 24, 2008 [6 favorites]

It's all luck. Really. The trick is you have to get to know someone before you can know if they're really right. That's hard to do in most any setting where you meet people. The first time I met my husband, I didn't think he was my type of guy at all. It was only 6 months later and several hours of conversation that I even found him attractive, and only after sleeping with him for several weeks that I started to think this could be a long-term thing. The important thing in my opinion is that our "casual sex" provided the opportunity to get to know each other without really trying to impress each other (since we were already having sex.) That is what led to us falling for each other. So, I don't know if it's possible to really judge how things are going to work based on first, second, or third impressions.
posted by threeturtles at 1:30 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm an early-20s guy, and am in kind of the same situation regarding what I'm looking for. OkCupid is really pretty good, especially for being free, though the problem I'm having is that so few of my good matches are sufficiently local. On the other hand, I'm rather shy, and so I tend not to hang out in bars and such, making an online approach to meeting people much more comfortable for me.

If you do sign up for OkCupid, set up your message filters appropriately - I've heard that women on that site tend to get lots of low-quality messages from low-match guys. You'll have the best luck with taking a proactive approach to searching for and messaging people you're interested in.
posted by NMcCoy at 1:37 PM on November 24, 2008

Boy, I hate to say this, but my friends and I spent 25 years picking up girls and women in the bars of NYC and while we are genuinely nice earnest guys such as you'd presumably like to be dating¹, we were not generally looking for quality in that situation; we were looking for the kind of women you'd expect to meet in a bar where friendly guys like us hang out. And we're from NYC, the high-testosterone guys who move here to work on Wall Street or wherever are ten times worse.

¹ except for Jon²

² Not jonmc, a different Jon

posted by nicwolff at 5:29 PM on November 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

You should just sign up for yahoo personals, eharmony, or any number of other websites that requirement payment. Yeah, it sucks to pay money for it but everything that's free out there is full of awful people. There's a reason why you shouldn't be dating someone you met off of craigslist.
posted by pixelnark at 6:58 PM on November 24, 2008

Go where the dudes are.

Word up. When I moved to a new city and wanted to meet girls for hanging out and being friends, I went to dance class. When I wanted to meet men, I joined a running club. Didn't end up dating anyone there but the positive male attention from people seeing me at my awkward, sweaty worst was probably the confidence boost I needed to meet someone (through a Craisglist ad if you're wondering). Plus I made a lot of great male friends who helped vet the new guy :-)
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:45 AM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

« Older five... five dollar... five dollar pashminas!   |   Evolution, Thai style? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.