All the single men = me.
January 29, 2009 11:18 AM   Subscribe

I suck at relationships. I've had very few, and I feel like the time for them is dying out. Also, recent events have created a lot of anger and doubt. What do I do?

Well, background: I'm a senior in college, a guy.

I had one 'real' relationship which lasted from the end of freshman year to the middle of sophomore year. It was mixed: she was very conservative, and I felt like we didn't have a great connection outside of one-on-one affairs, and even our conversations would stall a bit. It was a non-violent but sad breakup, and I feel like I've gotten over it entirely at this point, as most people should.

I had one hookup junior year, in which I just didn't get the message because I'm a terrible pessimist. Long story short, the girl had to ask me to sleep in my bed, cuddle, etc.

Neither of these incidents have included sex.

Recently I've gotten very close with one girl, who seemed almost perfect. Really pretty, really interested in me. I wasn't initially tremendously interested because I've been let down so many times before, but over time I really feel for her, and supposedly she liked me too. Our close friendship started around the time she was breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, and we hooked up twice after that. It was totally fine with the hooking up / friends thing.

And then she started to think that we shouldn't be hooking up since she wasn't in for a relationship, especially with someone who would have to leave (she's a sophomore) and especially when she's been emotionally and mentally messed up lately.

So, I laid off absolutely any signals and tried to completely ignore hers, and stay by her side and comfort her all the time, because I'm an idiot/good guy.

A few weeks later, she started dating another senior, without telling me. She explains that it's because "he has experience in relationships and that makes it easier for her" (he doesn't actually, he has as much time in relationships as I do). My guess is that it's because he's a) has sex b) was able to ask her on a date because she didn't tell him that she was going it alone. She also believes that I wouldn't have been able to handle a short-term type thing like that because I'm 'looking for love'.

So I feel completely fucked over by that encounter, because I was extremely - we considered each other best friends - close with that girl, and I feel like she made assumptions about me, while not caring at all about how I felt.

So here I am, alone again. What is wrong with this? I'm shy, sure. I'm hesitant to talk to girls, but I do, and I have an unfortunate / fortunate number of platonic relationships with girls.

I can't transition entirely from really liking that girl to not feeling anything towards her, right now I feel this terrible tearing that comes from hating the fact that you came so close to something great and then, for seemingly stupid reasons, were turned away while someone else won.

Please don't tell me to enjoy being single. I've had 20 years of single. I know single, it's my constant companion. And I know relationship problems, I've had plenty more of those than relationships lately. I'd like the relationship part. Or the hook-up part. Either one.

Everyone else seems to be winning (anecdotal, sure: my housemates all have either relationships or flings, as do almost all of my other friends), and I never seem to. I'm sick of it, and I'm sick of just being bitter.

I know college isn't the time for perfect relationships, but from what I've heard post-college is a wasteland, too. I'm moving to DC, where I don't know what will go down. The dating game seems to be won by people who can dispassionately hook up with people they tremendously like and then some other dude the next night. I'm not one of those people - I'm one of the shy ones who has a possibly-overrated idea that he's trying to do the right thing.

How do I actually do this hooking up / dating thing? Just get less shy?

How do I remove this girl from my mind or become friends with her again?

How can I feel better generally?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Who has told you that post-college is a wasteland? My god, I did the vast majority of my dating AFTER college. It's brilliant, because you actually have money to support a dating habit. Time is not running out--it's just beginning.
posted by fusinski at 11:26 AM on January 29, 2009 [6 favorites]

Agreed. You are far from the end.

Also - see a shrink. It sounds to me like you have some issues with trusting people. Caginess and an unwillingness to be vulnerable in front of people as well as pessimism are tied to larger issues that you should probably work on.

I've been in your position. You're not without hope. But you should have some help.
posted by orville sash at 11:33 AM on January 29, 2009

I suck at relationships...
I feel like the time for them is dying out...
I'm a terrible pessimist...
I've been let down so many times before...
She made assumptions about me, while not caring at all about how I felt...
Everyone else seems to be winning, and I never seem to...
Post-college is a wasteland, too...

You are making yourself miserable by telling yourself a bunch of negative, unkind, untrue stories about yourself and other people. Instead of uncritically accepting these stories, you can learn to notice these stories, question them, and choose to tell yourself other, more accurate and helpful ones.

How can I feel better generally?

Find a therapist who specializes in cognitive-behavioral or rational-emotive therapy. Good luck brother!
posted by ottereroticist at 11:40 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lighten the fuck up. I wish someone would have told me that in college; the only time I got laid during my five years was a girl I knew in high school so it doesn't count as a college hookup.

You're not going to find the love of your life in college. On the other hand, what may start out as a one-time thing could blossom. Go with the flow.

And you have not had 20 years of single. Depending on your high school dating scene, you've had seven years of single, tops.
posted by notsnot at 11:41 AM on January 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

1. There plenty more great dating & fun left to do post-college. 2. You need to be more confident and comfortable with yourself and spend MUCH less time worrying. I wish I could tell you how to get there - some therapy might help. IMO, sounds like your timidity is what drove last girl away from you.
posted by gnutron at 11:43 AM on January 29, 2009

I really mean this genuinely and I am sorry if it comes off condescending, but you are not as old as you probably feel.

Your desire for a relationship is strong, but don't turn it into a hopeless pursuit because you've had a rocky start. Look forward to moving to DC, focus on growing into the person you wish to become, and I swear to god some beautiful woman won't let you get away or drop you for some senior clown looking for a fling. You're gonna be fine.
posted by milarepa at 11:43 AM on January 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm not going for the blanket "she's an asshole," but if she's telling you what you want out of a relationship, she's certainly being presumptuous, possibly as an attempt to find some justification for how she treated you.

Also, you might want to reframe your perspective-- if you're a senior in college and you've been single for 20 years, either you're a twitch older than I am, or you really wanted some preschool booty back in 1993. I doubt that's actually the case, though.

It does sound like the dating culture at your college is centered on the one-night stand or the short-term hookup. It also sounds like it's a horribly bad fit for your personality, and that trying to cram yourself into the mold is making you miserable and anxious about your long-term prospects. You might find that you need to get the heck off campus and find some people who are more like you, who aren't focused on the pickup.

Graduation might be a really good thing for you, in that light-- it'll force you to stop looking at romance through the lens of your college experiences, and give you more freedom to figure out what you want and how best to put that expectation forth with the women you meet.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:50 AM on January 29, 2009

"I feel like the time for them is dying out"

I'm sorry you feel like this, but it's simply not true. College can be a great time for dating and hook-ups and all of that good stuff. So can life after college. Even DC. (Especially DC.) I promise.

Sometimes people can tell when you aren't feeling very confident, and I wonder if the women in your life are getting this Eeyore vibe from you. I'm sorry to call it something so flippant, because I think we can all understand where you're coming from. But things like, "because I'm an idiot/good guy" and "I'm sick of it, and I'm sick of just being bitter" can shine through even when you don't want them to. And that's no good for making a good impression. You really do need to make sure you're coming across as someone a woman wants to spend time with, hook up with, maybe date. I'll link to this slightly unrelated but still relevant comment that maybe explains what I'm getting at better than I can.

Finally, this one is telling: "I wasn't initially tremendously interested..."... until what? Until you realized she was interested in you? If so, you deserve better than that and so does she. Don't accept the bare minimum people are willing to offer you, and don't just take whatever you can get because you don't want to be alone.

Dry spells suck. Lack of experience isn't as big a deal to everyone as it may have been to the last girl. It will get better. In the meantime, work on being happier than you sound now, in whatever ways you can. You are probably great. Act that way. Then find someone who you like, who likes you, and kiss her.
posted by juliplease at 11:51 AM on January 29, 2009

It sounds like this girl was interested in you, but got tired of waiting around for you to get over yourself and moved on - and now that she's moved on, as a normal healthy person should do, you're upset. She didn't owe you a wait.

Whatever negativity you're wallowing in, you do need to address it because clearly the way you think about yourself and other people is, if not ruining your life, certainly making it unenjoyable.
posted by medea42 at 12:10 PM on January 29, 2009

Seconding juliplease, especially about DC post-college single life. It rocks, especially for guys (there are tons of brilliant, interesting no-BS women in DC, and a bunch of goofy jocks in bowties to compete with= WIN). College dating is bogus and all about games and misunderstandings and second-guessing yourself after drunken hookups. You haven't even begun to experience "real" relationships, so chillax. You've got another 20 years before you have any cause to worry about running out of time. If that. Real dating involves conversations and sophistication and being tasteful and witty and serious and upfront about expectations. It also involves knowing what you want, and not being afraid to take a risk, so work on that instead of pitying yourself.

Come to a meet-up and I'll give you any tips you need about the wonderful world of beltway bombshells.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 12:24 PM on January 29, 2009

The dating game seems to be won by people who can dispassionately hook up with people they tremendously like and then some other dude the next night

What do you mean "won?" What "game?" People who want cheap hook-ups will, if they try hard enough, usually get them. People who want a more serious relationship will usually get that, eventually. Stop beating yourself up for not getting something you don't want.

Post-college is a wasteland, too...
College is a part of the world. The world is full of people. A lot of people seem to sweat this, thinking no one ever makes friends or dates after 21. It's completely false.

and yes, therapy would probably be helpful.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:15 PM on January 29, 2009

Practice doing things that you enjoy, instead of what you think you should be doing or what you imagine your potential partner expects. Have fun, for God's sake. Be open to things that are new, unfamiliar, disorienting and awkward, because familiarity and safety are what you already have and are so sick of. Romance is not a discipline. Drop the idea that you've got to master some perfect relationship behaviors, and just do what feels good. Make more mistakes, not fewer of them, because as you make these mistakes you will hone your understanding of what's going on between people and success will become a whole lot easier while failure becomes much less of a big deal.

Also, quit elevating the kind of relationships you want while denigrating the kinds of relationships other people around you are having. It's comforting to minimize other people's successes, but you'll often be wrong when you think this way. Understand that, by and large, everyone is making the most they can out of their relationships, just like you are. Even if that doesn't amount to much, be the bigger dog and have some compassion.
posted by jon1270 at 2:34 PM on January 29, 2009

Just wanted to chime in and say, I had the same girlfriend all through college and it was great. Now however, I have a dating life that is as active as I want it to be. It is no more difficult to meet people now that I'm out of college, and as has been said above, it doesn't destroy my pocketbook to spend some money on someone I'm attracted to. I guess I'm just saying not to worry so much. Also, yeah, become a little less shy. Though shy works too, in the right situation.
posted by nameless.k at 2:46 PM on January 29, 2009

I'm likely to be a 26 year old virgin if the second half of my 25th year plays out like the first half did. But I haven't given up hope and I've made quite a bit of progress from where I was 3-4 years ago in the middle of college. And I'm going to make yet more progress during the rest of my 25th year. I recently finally got off my ass and am taking steps to get therapy to deal with my anxiety about social situations. I should start in a week or two, I hope.

I originally wrote far more, but I'll try to keep it shorter. You will likely need to step outside your comfort zone far more after college to date, but you can do it if you're motivated. Here's some things I did that stepped out of my comfort zone, bit by bit.

I joined and I was so frightened I could barely force myself to write a profile. I didn't contact any girl or wink or whatever for at least 3 months. Then I redid my profile a little, added better pictures. I got contacted by a girl and e-mailed a bit, but only made a few phone calls. Found another girl, she stopped responding to me for some reason even though the last time we talked she sounded like she wanted to meet. Then girl number 3 came.

I managed to land 3 dates with her before she completely rejected me due to feeling we were too incompatible. The main reason for her to think that? Not the virginity which I told her about. Not my appearance (if she found me unattractive I doubt she'd have done 2 more dates after the first one). Heck, not even my lack of experience (directly). No, for being too nervous and for some comments I made that raised red flags about my personality to her. Am I upset? Yeah, a little. But it really helped me and it told me that I do have something to offer. Just not to her. That's about the extent of my efforts to meet women after college and I still managed to meet people and almost even started something with someone.

If there's hope for a guy like me (and I have a few more issues than outlined above) then I really don't think you'll have many problems. Just be aware that it might take you a little longer than normal, but that just makes you different. Not better or worse.
posted by Green With You at 2:48 PM on January 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

It seems you are trying to enter into relationships in a more casual way - i.e., hoping your friendships with people of the opposite sex will blossom into relationships. I think you need to try to find people to ask out on actual dates, not one-on-one casual friend-things. I love those stories about how two people were best friends before they became romantically involved, but in my experience it's more of a sticky mess when it doesn't work out. Sometimes it's better to start out a relationship with the potential for romantic involvement outright. To help, you may need to invest in a wingman (or wingwoman).

I'm not talking about going to a bar and picking up on people. I'm talking about every other normal college social activity you are involved in. There is somebody out there who really wouldn't mind if you asked her out on a date, believe me.

I think one reason you're so doom-and-gloom right now is that you're getting over an emotional screw - you feel like you've been emotionally cheated on by a person you have feelings for. After time has passed, you probably won't be feeling quite so crappy and pessimistic about being 20 and single.

By the way, if you had come to us a few weeks ago, our response probably would have been "kiss her."
posted by jabberjaw at 3:14 PM on January 29, 2009

You are definitely not at the end of time for relationships. Were you planning on being married once you graduated from college or already in a relationship with your future wife? Tons, tons, tons, of people graduate from college without SOs. It's not a big deal.

What do you consider a hookup? I don't think most people consider cuddling a hookup. A hookup is usually considered anywhere from making out to sex, and many people think sex when they hear "hookup." Not necessarily applicable to the issue at hand, but if you're ever telling people in real life that you hooked up with a girl, make sure you know what they may take that to mean.

Are you saving yourself (sexually) for marriage or a long-term relationship? If so, that's totally fine, but you can't judge the girls you're interested for pursuing more sexual relationships if that's what they want and you aren't willing to do that. It seems like the girl you feel screwed over by felt like if she started dating you, she would be under too much pressure to make it a serious thing. It sounds like you like to take things really slow, and that may just not be her speed.

Also, are you the kind of guy who puts girls on a pedestal? I know many guys who think of girls as magical unicorns, walk on eggshells around them, and forget to talk to them like they are people. Those are the guys who have the absolute hardest time finding girls to date because their approach makes most girls feel uncomfortable.

You sound like a caring guy. Congrats on graduating and moving to D.C. It's a big city, so there are many ways to meet girls there. I don't know if you're moving there for a job or for grad school or what, but those are both great ways to meet new people. Moving on means a clean slate, and new people who won't have any preconceived notions about you like can often be the case from the people you're around for years in college.
posted by fructose at 3:34 PM on January 29, 2009

Yeah, I was just going to say, I met my husband (notsnot) when he was 30 ( I was a mere 24, but we were both still out of college.) I like to think that I'm completely awesome and well worth the 30-year wait. (And he is, too! Orders of magnitude better than any of the boys I dated in college!)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 3:35 PM on January 29, 2009

Nice things about post-college dating:

  • The people you meet are less likely to be about to move to another state for post-bac school, etc., more likely to stick around
  • The people are older and generally a bit more mature, less drama involved, tend to know what they want more
  • Tend to have their own apartment instead of having to deal with their roommates :-)
  • You're both likely to be of legal drinking age, opening up more places to hang out

    Only bad thing I can think of is:

  • A bit harder to meet people. You're not crammed into a room with dozens of people your own age anymore. You have to be more creative. Strike up a conversation with the woman person in line for lunch at your work place, etc.

  • posted by wastelands at 1:22 AM on January 30, 2009

    "woman person" haha. Originally I wrote the post from a hetero male perspective, then decided to change it to be gender neutral, but I missed a spot.
    posted by wastelands at 1:25 AM on January 30, 2009

    Your dating pool only gets bigger after college, as far as I can tell. I know way more single ladies than single men.
    posted by chunking express at 7:51 AM on January 30, 2009

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