Is there such as things as too much dating?
August 10, 2009 7:21 AM   Subscribe

I feel like I am exerting a lot of energy towards dating without much return. I have fun while doing it, but since I rarely meet someone who lasts more than a date or two, it’s starting to feel like an exercise in futility. I have dating quantity, but how do I get quality?

Obligatory History [aka too much information and self-justification, but of course, open to criticism]:

I’m female, mid-twenties, and sexually attracted to men. I really like meeting new people and going on dates. I’m good at first date small talk. I have eclectic taste, and enjoy hearing about people’s lives. I like men, I like feeling feminine and I like flirting. I am somewhat picky about whom I go out with, since I’m really happy with where I’m at in my life, but that just means that as long as I don't get "creep" vibe, I generally say “yes” whenever I get asked out. I don’t play games (the Rules, etc.,), but I don’t feel desperate. I’m cautious and traditional, so first and second dates are casual and non-physical, for the most part.

Over the last year, I’ve really made an effort to be open to meeting men, even though it’s harder now that I am out of college.
Gone out with men who are not necessarily my type, physically or personality-wise.
Given men my phone number.
Gone out with men that I’ve met online.
Spent time doing what I enjoy doing (classes, gym, volunteering) and have thus met men with similar interests.

The problem is that despite meeting lots of great men, I have yet to "click" with a guy...who is actually single, straight, and available -- the sad truth, as much as I loathe sounding like a rerun of "Sex and the City."

I don’t want anything serious right away; I don’t want to be married right now nor do I believe in the notion of soulmates. However, to be mutually attracted to someone physically and intellectually, long enough to date for even a month or two sounds like heaven at this point.
"Chemistry “ is starting to feel like a romantic fantasy, something akin to waiting for Prince Charming.

Sometimes the men are unavailable or just not interested in going out again, but for the most part, I end things after a date or two or three.
I’ve been told by friends that I’m too picky, or that I am too much of a minority (religious and liberal), but isn’t the idea of a connection that you just feel it? I agree that it is picky to judge guys on looks, income level or education, but if you don't feel an attraction, or if you don't share a sense of humor, or if they are so dull you'd rather go home and do laundry, then I think it is nicer to just break it off, so I do.

I feel too young to be burnt out, so I need some new ideas about where to go from here, some encouraging stories or a (not too harsh!) reality check.

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I feel like I am exerting a lot of energy towards dating without much return.

Yep, that's dating. Patience, grasshopper.

Stay picky. Don't settle.
posted by rokusan at 7:31 AM on August 10, 2009 [15 favorites]

Obviously something isn't working (stating the obvious). If all your dates are just dinner/lunch maybe you should try active dates. Insert your favorite activity and do that for a first date. Most dinner dates tend to have the same schedule; small talk, tell about yourself, eat. This can get boring and isn't generally romantic. Many times it seems more like an interview.

Otherwise, you should do some introspection about who you are and what you are projecting during a date. Don't try to create an ideal of who you really want to date because the imaginary date rarely has a real-world equal. You are better off defining the things that you like to do and that make you happy and try to find a guy that meets those qualities. Finding a guy that runs marathons and/or weightlifts might be a turn-on for you but if you don't share those interests then it most likely will not last.
posted by JJ86 at 7:33 AM on August 10, 2009

Sometimes making a connection takes more than a couple of dates--especially when you're picky (which I personally think is a good thing). Maybe instead of front-loading all of your expectations into the first couple of dates, try and start a relationship as friends with those somewhat less rigid set of expectations and see what happens. Personal anecdote: this is how I met my husband. We were friends for about five months before we started dating.
posted by Kimberly at 7:34 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been single for a year at a time and that felt like it flew by compared to a year in a shitty sub-par relationship.

Don't worry about where you'll be at the end of this journey of dating people. You WILL get there (there being somewhere you're happy to stay) and until then, enjoy the ride (or not, if your mileage varies in that respect ;] ) while you can.

You're not doing anything wrong. Patience and perspective is all you need :]
posted by greenish at 7:45 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I need some new ideas about where to go from here, some encouraging stories or a (not too harsh!) reality check.

Reality check: You're young, successful at meeting men, and having fun while doing so.

That ain't bad. Actually, it's great.

You're picky, and that means it's harder to find a guy you'll click with. It will just take longer.

But as for new ideas: if you haven't tried online dating yet, give it a try. Much faster browsing when they're all in one place like that. OkCupid is a good one to try out, since it's free and featureful. Have fun with it.
posted by whatnotever at 7:47 AM on August 10, 2009

Keep doing what you're doing, and stay picky.
posted by jockc at 7:51 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Since relationships are with flawed human beings, either you must blind yourself (love being blind) to the others faults, or become picky in a way that overlooks some things. Since people are on their best behavior on dates, you need to intuit who a person is beneath the surface and this can take more dates than you might want to invest, or the risk of trusting your intuition earlier. It's interesting that you characterize your minority as religious and liberal which leads me to believe that the deeper qualities you seek are expressed in those areas. Maybe you can really tell that quickly that your dates are unsuitable, or maybe you don't want to risk getting beyond some seemingly unsuitable superficialities. I made a lot of mistakes in my twenties and can't believe one can actually know enough about life and oneself at that age to do otherwise. Maybe you just need to keep doing what you're doing for a lot longer.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:57 AM on August 10, 2009

Honestly, I think you're primarily finding that these dinner/lunch dates aren't good first date material. I'm in agreement with JJ86 here, you need to try more active, but low commitment on time an air hockey challenge, or a game of pool, etc etc. The whole point of changing the venue, is to stray away from that "interview" feeling and rather do something fun and entertaining. You ideally would want to be doing something that can open the possibility of sexual tension...because without it, there's no room for romance (ah, graceful flirting..hah).

Do you like beer, and have a brewery nearby? That could be another first date idea instead of a game challenge. These usually last 1-2 hours, and give you things to talk about other than soley each other, and the oppurtunity to hold hands or flirt a bit. The great part about brewery tours is they often offer free beer at the end of the tour, a great social enhancer :)

Anyway, that's the gist. Pick things you think you'd enjoy over boring lunch/ the guy that you're into having fun, and it'll likely spark a side of him that you wouldn't normally see in a resturant. Besides, if he isn't your type, or if you don't atleast walk away having had a good time for yourself rather than a "meh" dining experience.
posted by samsara at 8:00 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think you may just be giving up too early. As someone who is picky, you are perhaps too judgmental and once you have hints of the "not this again (this being not "clicking" in the way you'd hoped), it's possible you just kind of give up. Two dates, especially if they're the same kinds of dates (the suggestion above for different date types is a good one) aren't really a whole lot of time, especially if you are judgmental and generally feeling jaded about the men you're meeting.

Try relaxing, taking things slowly, get to know each other a little first outside the date. Call or send emails, be friends first, but basically take your time and try to pick up on little things you might currently be missing.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:07 AM on August 10, 2009

Something is not jiving as if you're withholding a piece of information (which may have been completely unintentional). Should I be reading in between the lines here and assuming you're abstinent?

Gone out with men who are not necessarily my type, physically or personality-wise.

That's crazy, you're not an Ivy League board of admissions here. Look I've totally fell for girls who were not anything like me if we've known each other for awhile, but this sort of thing, for me at least, develops slowly over time if it ever happens at all. James Carville and Mary Matalin are the exception, not the rule, and even then I bet they have a lot more in common with each other (big political, Washington power players) than any of them would have in common with us.
posted by geoff. at 8:19 AM on August 10, 2009

Move to a big city on one of the coasts.
posted by Zambrano at 8:24 AM on August 10, 2009

If the "religious and liberal" label is complicating things for you, why not narrow your search to specifically religious and liberal men? Can you get involved with an organization like Sojourners? (I have no idea if that's the right type of religion or politics for you.) Or, similarly, could you get involved with something that would put you in contact with people of varying religious and political backgrounds who take both seriously (i.e., you don't need to target just liberal religious guys, but you probably want someone who respects your views on those topics and takes them seriously himself)?
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:24 AM on August 10, 2009

Don't date people you hardly know!

Get involved with activities you enjoy and make friends. Wait until you know someone well enough to have a good idea that they're compatible with you, before going on a date with them. Or just skip the "dating" part, I don't think I've ever dated someone until after I was in a relationship with them already!
posted by emilyw at 8:34 AM on August 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

It's all a numbers game. Just think about how low the odds are of meeting someone with all these requirements: you have to be attracted to him physically, he has to be attracted to you physically, you have to think he's interesting and funny, he has to think the same about you, you have to be single, he has to be single, you have to be interested in dating at the moment, he has to be interested in dating at the moment, and on top of all that one of you has to be brave enough to ask the other out.

If you mostly go on lunch/dinner dates there's a chance you wouldn't feel chemistry with anyone- it's hard to feel chemistry with someone you don't know while sitting across the table from them. Think about what you like in a guy and give him a chance to show you those things on a date. For example if you like athletic guys then play tennis or whatever. Once you see him kick butt at tennis you'll think that's kinda hot. If you go hiking you'll get a chance to help each other out (hand holding without the hand holding!) and you'll be drooling over his calf muscles while walking behind him. Or go bowling, where you'll have to walk by each other back and forth and high five each other. Things like that create chemistry and sparks, even if the person is not your ideal physically. Or if you like artsy guys go to an art gallery and the way his brain works might turn you on.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 8:45 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

I doubt you're doing anything "wrong".... dating is pretty much like that. I completely agree with the things whatnotever said. If you are young, successful at meeting men and having fun while doing so - then that puts you far above most people.

I participate in a wide variety of online forums and dating sites. Quite often I see younger (20's) people get really frustrated that dating isnt easier/quicker/more obvious. I'm not trying to stereotype you,.. but it seems like a lot of younger people expect dating to be like ordering from a drive-thru window. .. It's just not like that. at all.

You have to just relax, and completely give up ALL your expectations. Let things flow. If you meet someone and you have an enjoyable drink/dinner and nothing else comes of it - then be happy in the knowledge you enjoyed the experience for what it is. Learn from it. Be positive.

Chemistry is one of those rare things that just happens. You can't force it or rush it. Keep doing what you're doing. Relax. Enjoy. Learn to sit back and let things develop. Life has a way of encouraging certain outcomes - but you have to have awareness and be listening if you want to hear what its trying to tell you.
posted by jmnugent at 8:46 AM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

I once counted that I had gone out with 36 guys in a two year period. Number 36 and I just celebrated our 5 year anniversary and are registering as domestic partners.

I generally took your approach, and had very similar results. A few times, I also felt burned out, and took breaks from dating for a few weeks at a time. Eventually, I found the right guy.

I disagree with previous posters. When I first started dating again after an LTR ended, I would often give guys a second or third or fourth date to see if the chemistry "developed". It never did. If there wasn't a spark in the very beginning, it just never happened for me.
posted by kimdog at 9:25 AM on August 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

You seem thoughtful and level headed, like you'd be a "catch" for somebody. Finding an exciting chemistry is the whole reason for dating. Hang in there.
posted by bonobothegreat at 9:46 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

To start off, it sounds to me you are doing a lot of great things: you are providing ample opportunity for yourself to meet someone, short of moving.

With that said, the remainder of this is not meant to be cruel. This is a statement on reality: you are overly passive in your presentation. You are not as eclectic as you think you are. If you bought a picture frame from Pier 1, chances are that someone your same age with very similar style and a similar career path bought the very same frame and put a very similar picture to the one that you have in yours in theirs. Statistically, you fit into a demographic. You listen to the same music as this other girl. You eat the same foods as this other girl. You both have the same shirt and maybe a similar handbag. You go out to the same sort of club as this other girl. You have dated the same sort of guys as this other girl. From this perspective - you are not a unique or pretty or eclectic flower. The same thing goes for every guy you meet and every personal advertisement you read.

Now, knowing this, here's the challenge with dating, with first dates, with first impressions, with online dating, and even with that cute guy in the line at the grocery store: You have to make the most of every opportunity and sell yourself, because you can't make them improve their own sales pitch. So my advice has nothing to do with changing the type of guy you date, but by making sure that you improve the quality of the message you transmit outward. Is the message you send a clear and concise view of who you are? Does it define you in terms that you want and will it draw someone to you that you want to be with?

When you are conversing with someone you may be interested, are you stating facts or are you inviting them to imagine themselves as part of your life? Small talk is the killer of budding relationships. If you and your dates consist of the two of you listing off your activities and accomplishments and talk about politics in a way where niether of you challenge eachother, then you will find it very hard to actually connect to anyone as you are both taking passive roles. What do you want out of life? Does your dream job keep you where you are, or are you intending on moving on? Make plans, suggest things from their statements, draw conclusions. Do you care that the person knows you like salsa dancing? Or would you rather the two of you go out salsa dancing at the Havana Club? Do you like to eat indian food or would you rather go to Punjabi Dhaba after catching a show at Ryles Jazz Club?

Remember everything you write, everything you say, and everything you do is representative of who you are. If you want a spark, if you want to ignite the fire and the passion in someone - you have to put yourself out there in a manner which makes people want to see where this could go. Otherwise, statisitically, you are not particularly interesting and there isn't a reason for them to show much interest.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:52 AM on August 10, 2009 [6 favorites]

I'm in a fairly similar situation to you, only I'm a few years older. I thought that maybe I was being too close-minded and picky, so I tried online dating to meet new people and expand my dating pool. I went out on dates with several men and forced myself to give it a chance and not write them off even if there was no initial chemistry. But nothing ever developed, and I got tired of the process. I decided to take a sabbatical from dating. I don't mind being single and I'd much rather spend my evenings going out with friends or participating in activites that I enjoy than going on random dates with guys I don't know. If I meet a guy that I find interesting, or something develops with someone I already know, I'd certainly give it a shot. But I agree that dating can seem like a big waste of time and you can't force a connection- if you're not feeling it, you're just not feeling it.

My advice is to forget about dating for a few months. Spend your time doing things you want to do- go on vacation, spend more time with friends and family, join a club or sports team, etc. Maybe you'll meet someone with whom you naturally connect, and if you don't, you'll still be having a good time. You can always jump back into the dating pool later if you choose.
posted by emd3737 at 9:52 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Where are you going to meet prospective dates? If you're looking for serious-minded yet laid-back men looking for an eventual commitment, then obviously you can't expect to meet them in singles' bars.

Abby had the best (generic) advice years ago. If you're looking for a man with good values and an intention to make a commitment -- you'll meet him in church, or some place that people like you go. Go to an art museum and stand directly behind a guy who's leaning in to look at a picture. When he backs up, he'll bump into you, which breaks the ice. Other possibilities are lectures, school reunions and classical music concerts.

One of the best ways to test the waters is to go to a week-long conference, or, better yet, a two-week-long workshop. That throws you together with lots of people with your interests, and gives both of you the chance to go a bit farther than you otherwise would, with the safety-net of having an automatic ending.
posted by KRS at 9:58 AM on August 10, 2009

I'm with those who are saying "forget about dating." Just meet people, be friendly, and enjoy yourself.

I've been much happier since I adopted that approach. Here's what I posted on my OKCupid profile to explain:

I don’t want to date. Why, then, do I maintain a profile on a dating site?

When I say I’m not here for dating, I mean that I’m not particularly interested in finding a relationship or getting a date per se. I’m here because I want to get to know people as human beings – as individuals, with all their quirks, emotions, and idiosyncrasies – and, if we hit it off, make friends with them. Full stop.

The possibility of romantic and sexual involvement doesn’t enter the picture for me until 1) I’ve met someone face-to-face; 2) we’ve gotten to know one another fairly well as friends; 3) we’ve determined that, for the most part, we’re on the same wavelength; and 4) it’s become clear that we’re a good fit with one another practically as well as emotionally. Obviously this doesn’t happen overnight. It’s got a timetable of its own. It can’t be rushed, at least not without sacrificing something precious in the process. I’ve found that trying to “skip ahead” a few steps is a recipe for disappointment and hurt feelings. That’s one of the reasons I don’t do online flirting.

When I meet with new people, I try to do so with as few preconceived notions as possible. Having a script running in the back of my mind that says “this is a potential date!” adds a certain measure of excitement and drama, but unfortunately, it seems to interfere with the gradual process of unfolding I mentioned above. The only way to circumvent this, for me, is not to consider dating at all, or at least not until after I’ve known and liked someone for quite awhile.

There have been times when I’ve decided in advance the kind of relationship I’d like to have, and then attempted to find people to fit into that predetermined vision. That approach hasn’t worked so well, and some people have balked at it (and I can’t really say I blame them). I think it works best the other way around. Find the people you click with first, and then – and only then – decide together, over time, what kind of relationship you’ll have.

That’s the way I roll.
posted by velvet winter at 10:28 AM on August 10, 2009 [12 favorites]

Dating is a waste of time until it isn't.
posted by rhizome at 11:30 AM on August 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'd advise you to find groups of friends to spend time with. Eventually one of them who is male will grow on you. I think you need to spend time with men that you aren't actually dating-because then you will get a better picture of who they actually are and not so much the idealized version they are trying to project on a first date.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:45 AM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Sometimes it takes a while. Try to enjoy the process, make some new friends, network (for dating or friendship or professional connections or whatever fits your life), try new activities and groups that pique your interest. Being picky is good, as long as you're not a perfectionist or putting anyone on a pedestal.

I started dating again over 5 years ago and have averaged one 6-month-plus relationship per year as well as numerous single dates or other very-short-term attempts at connecting. I had a number of opportunities to settle into something long term, but none of them were right for me.

I am now in a relationship that has the best chemistry of my life, along with just about everything I could ask for in a significant other, and I'm convinced that a big part of why it's going so well for us is the personal growth that I worked on while I was doing all that dating, including refining what I wanted in a partner, what I'd accept in a relationship, and how to communicate effectively in a relationship, and the similar work she was doing separately. The time invested is worth the payout in the end.
posted by notashroom at 12:54 PM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

From a guy's point of view: One part of it's a chemistry thing. I've had some relationships that were great at chemistry, but weren't so good at being stable, going anywhere, or not being full of crappy drama that no one needs.

The best relationships didn't necessarily have a ton of chemistry in the first place. The mistake might be that you're moving on too fast. Do you like the guys as friends? Well, then, just avoid jumping in the sack with them, be very clear where you're coming from and what your current mood/opinion is, and don't send conflicting messages (like getting drunk and going home with one of 'em) and just enjoy their friendship.

Or, alternatively, just see what develops with someone who you genuinely like and who you think is a good person.

Two case studies:

I went out a few times with a graduate student last year for several months. After the third date, she was very clear that she was just sort of looking for someone to (ahem) take out her frustrations on. While I was perfectly happy with this situation, I also thought that there was something more there ... she was not someone who I'd get married to, but she was fun and we supported each other well. We relaxed around each other and were able to provide a much-needed support structure, shoulder, assistant, and comfortable, forgiving companionship along with the epic levels of early-thirties-stress-induced-sexing that happened.

Another girl I dated before that had ... lots of hangups. My goal when I get into someone is to build a flexible, selfless relationship that is bigger than the sum of the two of us... not in a constricting way, but one that flexes as we get older and change. She had a bunch of little rules that had to be followed -- like if we were talking via instant messenger and I ask her to something, I couldn't do it via IM, I had to call her real quick, ask her, and then go on with the IM conversation. Honest to god, I juggle 300,000 details every day, and I'm gonna drop a ball occasionally. She'd just cut me off as "not worthy" and I'd have to go chasing after her, because damnit, I did like the woman for all her faults and I knew the "sharp little rules" came out of some things that had hurt her in the past. Still, the pressure of having to do that and starting over again really wore at the relationship.

Sum total: Dating changes as you get older. Unless the guys are totally worthless, and can't see farther than the needs of the smaller of their two brains, keep them around for a while. You might be surprised to see what develops. (Just don't lead them on, and don't sleep with them unless you really intend to get into a relationship.) In my experience, relationships go better when you take the anxiety out of them and are forgiving, warm, and open. And if I ever meet anyone again who's willing to be that way with me, I'll let you know how it goes!


For what it's worth, I'm a late 20's fairly liberal guy living in a podunk conservative college town. You won't find me in restaurants or bars, but if you're volunteering with me (and I do a *LOT* of volunteering) I might ask you out. Most of the time, I'll either get shot down, find out the girl's way too young for me (18-22 tends to be 'too young' to me, but I still might give 21-22 a chance), is religious in a way that's incompatible with my worldview, or some other thing. But I get some good dates out of it. And some better friendships.
posted by SpecialK at 3:12 PM on August 10, 2009

I tend to think that some people (example: velvet winter) can do the thing where they take a long time to find out if they are attracted to someone or not, and some other people (example: kimdog) can keep giving guys they aren't interested in a "chance" and still not manage to make themselves interested in them.

Which is to say: some people do take a long time to figure out whether or not like they like someone. If you're one of those people, dating someone you aren't immediately interested in multiple times is a good idea.

If, on the other hand, you know early on if you have no interest in them, giving them 2-3 more dates is not going to make you more interested in them. I think you're in the latter camp (me too), so your breaking it off after a few dates if you'd rather do laundry than see them is a good thing. And dating people you know from the start that you have no interest in does NOT help motivate you to go on more dates, in my experience. I wish I hadn't listened to those who told me to give everyone a chance, because the only time that paid off was with blind/Internet dates where I didn't already know the guy in person (and knew I didn't like him like that already).

Really, I think it just boils down to you not doing anything majorly wrong here. You just haven't met the dude yet. Unfortunately, it may very well take more years of dating to get lucky.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:27 PM on August 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

Dating is a waste of time until it isn't.


posted by lohmannn at 10:04 AM on April 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Everything's Alright (except their spelling)   |   AtlantaFilter - What should we see? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.