Dont have feeling for the girl im seeing - but she is nice. What do i do?
October 9, 2009 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Dont love the new girl I'm seeing........ I dont want to hurt anyone - but dont want to lose her either... Can i fall in love months later? or is it always love or chemistry at first sight?

My girlfriend left me for another man about 5 months ago. The relationship was the most important of my life and we were talking about getting married. At the time, I believed she was the love of my life. Ultimately I learned that she had another boyfriend for the entirety of our relationship. This created a situation where for 4 years I had half of someone and spent a great deal of time alone and waiting to have the rest and not understanding why things were as they were. My pleads for normality were turned back on me in the form of guilt from this person. I could easily write a book about the experience as everyone who is familiar with it believes it is the most incredible thing they have ever heard. The level of deceit and the level guilt I was made to feel is without precedent in my life. It also cost me my job, the place I once lived, many of the things I had worked very hard for – was in general life altering. My therapist who followed the story from the mid point believes this person is without a doubt a narcissist and possibly a sociopath.

I am in the process of trying to move on now. I find spending time by myself to be very difficult and it’s a constant battle with myself, when alone, to not call my ex. I don’t always succeed but im getting better. Honestly, I still have feelings for her which I know is crazy considering and I know that I can never act on them, however I still think is understandable given some of what we once had. I tell my friends, im not a machine, I just cant hit a switch and make these go away. Anyway the process is not easy.

To help me move on I started seeing new people about 2 months ago. It helped as I spent less time alone, which is when I think most about my previous ordeal and my ex. It also felt a bit emotionally draining. I was having a date or 2 a week with a new person each time... Not really my thing but my thought was to do all my homework in the beginning so as to make a good choice. It got to be a bit soul destroying because I felt like I was interviewing for my next girlfriend and being interviewed… Not really what you need when you're healing a broken heart. After a couple of weeks of this I decided to invest a little more in one person.

I am now dating only one girl. I liked her the best, and on paper she is nearly perfect but to be honest I don’t feel the chemistry. I am happy when I’m with her, she is nice, smart, pretty, we have fun together, but the chemistry just isn’t there, or isn’t there yet. Also, when it comes to the physical aspect I feel like I’m just going through the motions. Its sex, not love.

I have 2 questions – This new person wants to be serious. I think she is beginning to really care about me. I’m pretty sure now that either because of my lingering thoughts of my ex or because there just may never be chemistry, that this relationship doesn’t have long term potential. This is not fair to this new person. At the same time being alone is the hardest thing for me and right now I really need a hand to hold at night and a woman to talk to. I don’t want to hurt anyone – but I feel for the first time in my life that after what happened to me – I have no choice but to be selfish this one time. For my health. Any ideas how I can let everyone get what they want? Im pretty sure if I tell her about my feelings she will walk away and im not sure im ready for that or if Im right that the chemistry wont come.
My second question is the million dollar question – Its about love – I have had 3 serious relationships in my life. The first was in high school and I knew this person for a long time before we began our relationship. We were friends first (Admittedly, I was a little infatuated with her from the beginning) and fell in love. My second 2 relationships were love at first sight. I met them, and knew immediately that I wanted more from these people. There’s that feeling you get from minute 1 - that anyone who has been in this situation before knows and can’t describe… My recent ex falls into this camp.

Dating is new to me. I feel like it’s very contrived.. It’s like you pretend to be boyfriend and girlfriend in hopes that you actually feel boyfriend and girlfriend. Will this happen? I think what im asking is , is it possible to fall in love with someone months after being with them? Or should I just have feelings from day one?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
She is nice, smart, pretty, we have fun together, but the chemistry just isn’t there, or isn’t there yet.

Tell her that.

Dating is contrived. It's a social ritual.
posted by rokusan at 9:46 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

you can fall in love by inches. it happens.
posted by gonna get a dog at 9:49 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Have you considered the idea that maybe it's not this specific girl, but that 3 months wasn't nearly enough time for you to get over your last relationship??
posted by so_gracefully at 9:53 AM on October 9, 2009 [17 favorites]

First off: you're five months away from a four-year relationship that seriously hurt you. I doubt if you're ready for another serious relationship, and you should make any dating partner aware of that.

If you don't want to hurt people, simply be honest about what you think, feel, and want. It's not harsh to say "I don't have strong feelings for you." It's harsh to avoid saying it while leading the other person on for months.

That said: falling in love takes time, so "I don't have strong feelings for you" is not the same as "We should stop seeing each other." If you're both comfortable taking it slow and seeing what happens, then great. If she needs someone who's falling hard and fast, then maybe you both move on to something better.

I think the best thing you can do for yourself right now is avoid pressure about what you're "supposed to" do and feel. Try to examine your emotions without judging them. Know where you're at and explain that to others. That way, people can know what to expect, and the ones who stick around are more likely to be a good match for you.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 9:55 AM on October 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

Often, high-chemistry partners activate issues we have and are not good for us. I think your past girlfriend was one of those. There are as many different ways of falling in love as there are people, or maybe as many different was as there are relationships.

If you are a person who has been burned, perhaps it is good that you are going slow. Just be honest with her and let her know that it is going to take time for you to work out where you are with this.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:55 AM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

Yes, people fall in love over time. Not all relationships map neatly onto the plot lines of romantic comedies.

That said, I would be honest about how you're feeling with this new girl, so everyone is on the same page.
posted by chunking express at 9:55 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think you've been single nearly long enough. While I don't think you need to do the whole "it takes half the time the relationship lasted to heal" nonsense, you do need to take longer than 90 days before you face the dating world again.

If you don't feel it for this girl, do her a favor and let her go. Being with someone you suspect is still pining for an ex is almost as bad as being cheated on, in my opinion and experience. When you're single again, be single for a while (six months MINIMUM, more like a year to recover from the whammy you just took) and take care of yourself before you jump back into the dating pool.

Dating is contrived and awkward, but I'll tell you--it didn't seem nearly as contrived and awkward when I was actually ready for it as it did when I tried to jump in too early.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:57 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

At the same time being alone is the hardest thing for me and right now I really need a hand to hold at night and a woman to talk to. I don’t want to hurt anyone – but I feel for the first time in my life that after what happened to me – I have no choice but to be selfish this one time. For my health. Any ideas how I can let everyone get what they want? Im pretty sure if I tell her about my feelings she will walk away and im not sure im ready for that or if Im right that the chemistry wont come.

You're using her. Your ex used you. Don't do this to someone else.

Talk to this girl and let her make her own decision. If you respect her at all, care about her at all, please please do this. Do this for yourself, as well - you don't need to think of yourself as the kind of person who lies to someone (even by omission) about how you feel about them in order to get what you need.
posted by rtha at 9:59 AM on October 9, 2009 [12 favorites]

My personal experience would indicate that while you *can* learn to love someone, that love is more fragile than that based on a natural and compelling chemistry.
posted by OilPull at 10:00 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Maybe you can date a little longer and see what happens without deciding where things are going. However, if it's obvious she is falling for you and you definitely don't feel the same, you have to tell her. Stringing her along because you don't want to be alone is dishonest, and you already know how terrible that feels to the other person. Don't be your ex, you're better than that.
posted by janerica at 10:00 AM on October 9, 2009

I remember the exact moment I realized I was in love with the woman who is now my wife. It was months into our relationship. I don't understand how it works. Maybe lots of little things built up until some kind of 'this is love' threshold was crossed, maybe just the way she looked at that moment fired off a chemical reaction in my brain that hasn't stopped firing, but, yes, it is possible to fall in love with someone months after being with them.
posted by IanMorr at 10:02 AM on October 9, 2009

No one who was honest ever got accused of being exploitative or cruel.

"I enjoy spending time with you, but as we've gotten closer I've become more aware that I still have feelings for my ex and think about her often. I know I need to get over her, and I have no intention of following it up, but I thought I should be honest with you before this gets more serious. I do want to keep seeing you, but I don't feel like I'm ready to fall in love with someone new so soon."

She might leave you, she might stay because she likes having someone's hand to hold as well. Saying this doesn't mean she wont be hurt, but it means she's choosing to be with you, knowing where you're at, which is much better.

And for the record, it took me 3 years to get close to a position when I could love someone else after the end of my big true love forever. And, also for the record, that new person was someone I'd known for years. Love can grow unawares.
posted by twirlypen at 10:09 AM on October 9, 2009 [19 favorites]

You might or might not fall in love with her in the future but at this point look like you are not ready for a new relationship. It is way too soon. Tell her your feelings and let her decide.
posted by 3dd at 10:13 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you ask me, the notion that chemistry at first sight has anything at all to do with profound, enduring love is at best a fantasy and at worst a willful delusion that has led too many people I know away from happiness.
Obviously, the two are not mutually exclusive. But it's like looking for gold in a silver mine--it might be there, you might know someone who found it that way once, but it's generally a fool's errand.
posted by willpie at 10:56 AM on October 9, 2009 [3 favorites]

Basically just as twirly pen says but leave out the "I still have feelings for the ex and think about her often" part. Just say that you enjoy the time you guys are together, you really like her and really want to keep seeing her but that you feel it's mportant that she should know that you might not be emotionally ready to fall in love yet. Don't beat around the bush after you've started. Try not to have a big build-up. Don't do it in a restaurant. Go someplace she'll feel most comfortable. Don't do it right after sex.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:00 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

My second 2 relationships were love at first sight. I met them, and knew immediately that I wanted more from these people. There’s that feeling you get from minute 1 - that anyone who has been in this situation before knows and can’t describe…

Remind me how those worked out again?

Yes, I have personally observed relationships which started out with quite tepid feelings on the part of at least one of the participants grew fully into love and a lasting relationship (marriage with children, still going strong). 2 months is not a very long time. Also, having a natural attraction to something that is intrinsically harmful to you is not very unusual: the sorts of feelings you had for your ex might very well be a warning sign for you.

It is very fair to tell your current partner that you are not ready to get serious and you aren't sure about your future together because of where you're at. The consequences will be what they are.
posted by nanojath at 11:05 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll diverge from the herd. You were single long enough to start dating. You made a big step by starting. Therapy probably helped you get there. When my marriage of 5 years went crashing down without me... I went into therapy. Therapy quickly reframed the end of things, reframed the point at which communication was actually over, and helped me get back on my feet.

I was dating about two months after my ex walked out on me. Was it too soon? In some ways yes, and in some ways no. It was the right time for me.

A 4 year relationship is going to affect any new relationships. Its a good thing if it does. You were with someone for 4 years, you know what you look for for security; you know what you look for in people. I was able to make a quick list of superficial things that drove me crazy; and with the help of my therapist, I was able to identify and quantify the characteristics of the relationship I wanted. I quantified and qualified what I wanted from a relationship.

I dated everyone. For about six months I had an amazingly awesome summer/fall of dating. I put my little model of what I wanted, of how I wanted to feel with someone, about someone, and about myself and I gave it a thumbs up and thumbs down. Quickly. And yeah, it was like an interview process to some extent. I was upfront with my past relationship - as in pre-date conversation... and I didn't bring up my old relationship when I was on an early date. For some, dates were non-starters (divorcees are somewhat stigmatized - especially new ones), so I just rolled with it and found something else/someone new to see. In all, my friends, my coworkers were... dumbfounded that I kept as full a social schedule as I did...

Stats on paper don't make a relationship. Sure chemistry can grow, but if you've got cold feet now... be honest. Tell her and move on. You'll find someone else... unless you're 90 and on your deathbed... and then... well... its good that you've found love 3 other times - better to move on and find it that 4th time....

Oh yeah: You don't need hand holding from a relationship you aren't vested in; that's what your ex gave you.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:16 AM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Jumping from one relationship to the next in order to salve the pain over losing the previous relationship is a natural instinct. At the same time, it can actually kill your ability to create lasting relationships in the future.

The thing is, when a relationship ends, you have to take time to grieve -- but you can't do the proper grieving if you're in a brand-new relationship. Moving on is a process that can't be rushed. Being single is very, very hard when you're hurting -- and at the same time, it is both essential and extremely valuable.

Dating too fast -- and I think dating 3 months after the end of a 4-year relationship is the definition of dating too fast -- is a way of dodging the pain and fear that you know will come with being single for now. (This is not to suggest that the state of being single always comes with pain and fear; it is entirely possible to lead a happy, fulfilling life without a relationship.) But what functions as a relief in the short run can be crippling in the long run. The healthiest thing to do is, unfortunately, the hardest thing to do: to face your fear and pain. To sit with it. To endure it. And ultimately, to learn from it in order to benefit you and your future relationships.
posted by scody at 11:40 AM on October 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Man, it took me like 2 years to get over a failed serious relationship before I could do anything more than date/sleep around without going to pieces. 3 months, really? There's no way you're in any emotional state for this.

I've been with my current SO for almost 9 years, it's been a very slow, continuous, low-pressure process. So yeah, it's possible, but it's going to be less likely to work out if there's pressure to move faster. It sounds to me like there's actually pressure both from her wanting to move faster, and from yourself feeling like you need to, and that'll make taking it slower and seeing what happens near impossible. I think your only option here is to just be honest with her and see where the chips fall. There's a good chance she'll feel hurt and pull away, but significantly less so than if you string her along for months and let it go sour.

Also, in my experience, people you "fall in love with" at first sight are horrible for you and it always ends in tears. I'm sure there's some exceptions to this outside of bad romantic movies, but anecdotally, people that push your buttons that hard before you even know the first thing about them don't make for very healthy long-term prospects, even if it's fun in the short-term.
posted by cj_ at 12:18 PM on October 9, 2009 [5 favorites]

If she actually is falling in love with you, I don't think she'll run off just because you're not sure how you feel yet. I assume that she knows about your last relationship, and there is really no harm at all in letting her know that you need to take things slow. If she's in a rush for commitment, then you need to do what's right and tell her that you're not ready for that yet. Feeling emotionally needy (which you have every right to feel) does not give you the right to trick someone into staying by your side to help you heal. This is what therapy is for.

Infatuation at first sight does not guarantee enduring love, and your experience has proved that twice over. Love develops over time with the proper nurturing. It's perfectly possible for you to fall in love with her as she helps you through this rough patch. But if you deceive her into staying, feelings of guilt may prevent you from ever recognizing the sense peace that comes with true love. And if she finds out what you've done, she may never forgive you.

Be honest with her. Tell her that you love being with her and that you want her to stay. There is no shame in needing more time before declaring love or making a commitment. Don't allow yourself to become like your ex, manipulating people to satisfy your own selfish needs. Please do right by her.
posted by contrariwise at 1:01 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Instead of dating, maybe you should focus on making friends with women. You could volunteer for an organization that has mostly female volunteers. For instance, I have found that many dog/cat rescue organizations tend to have lots of female volunteers. Try finding an activity you enjoy and making female friends through that. Maybe you'll find a friend who is going through something similar.

I think you should tell the woman you are dating that you need to move slowly. You are still grieving over your ex and working through trust issues. Until you work through some of these things, it's going to be difficult for you to feel strongly towards another woman. It sounds like your past relationship took a lot out of you emotionally. It will take time to get your emotional strength back.
posted by parakeetdog at 1:19 PM on October 9, 2009

I'm a beliver of that saying "You can't be happy with someone else unless you are happy with yourself." I don't think you are ready to date again, not based on a particular time frame, but because you are not comfortable being alone. Once you are comfortable being alone, you will beable to bring a lot more to the table becuase you will be looking for someone to share experiences with rather than someone to lean on. In other words, you won't be emotionally dependant to someone you do not actually love.

That said, you should be honest with your current girl and let her know that you do not see the relationship going anywhere. she may be hurt, but she would be more hurt if you let it go on longer.

As far as falling in love slowly and instant chemistry goes, either can happen, but I see people confusing "chemistry" and "drama" all the time. Maybe what you are experiencing is a relaxing gradually growing relationship rather than the instant dramatic malestrom of a sociopathic lover that you just experienced.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:25 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Love, particularly "falling in love," is an actual chemical process in the brain. You fall in love with someone because you happen to experience a huge dopamine surge while thinking about them, so your brain makes the connection between the two, and you become obsessively addicted to this person. It's basically the same kind of mechanism as a drug addiction, which is why breakups with someone you love deeply produce such horrible withdrawal symptoms.

A lot of people fall in love simply because the experience of being with someone when they haven't had a partner before (or in a long time) is very novel and exciting. This can be not such a great thing when you fall in love with someone who isn't really very compatible with you, and once the crazy chemical emotional stuff wears off, the relationship falls apart. It's probably not a coincidence that most divorces occur at around 5 years after the relationship started, which is just about the time the brain's internal bonding to that person wears off. (You get about 12-18 months of "in love-ness", then about 4 years of increased tolerance for the person. Just enough time to make you want to have lots of sex and make some babies, and then tolerate your partner long enough to raise the kid to walk and talk and minimally fend for itself. Mother nature at work.)

If what you want is to fall in love with this woman, go do something incredibly exciting with her, like skydiving or bungee jumping or riding scary roller coasters, or traveling to exotic and beautiful places. What gives you a huge rush? Go do that with her. If she gets a thrill from it as well, it will also strengthen her bond to you. (And if you want to STAY in love for years, research suggests that the way to make this happen is to keep doing novel and exciting things together on a regular basis.)

But if you don't want to fall in love with her, or you've convinced yourself that you never will, then break it off now, and help her forget you for a while so she can break her own love addiction. You'll break her heart, and it really sucks to break someone's heart, but it's best for her in the long run if you don't drag it out.

Read the book "Why We Love" by anthropologist Helen Fisher, or watch her TED talk. Everyone who reads her book is all OMG THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING after reading the first couple of chapters.
posted by brain at 1:25 PM on October 9, 2009 [7 favorites]

OK, I have to assume you've posted here before.....I've read all of your previous posts with interest, and I only have this to say:


Seriously - take a break. Take a break from dating, take a break from trying to date, take a break from mooning over your ex, take a break from this pursuit of love/companionship and do some work ON YOURSELF.

It's not forever. You have GOT to get your OWN shit straightened out, friend, and I really think you need to just BE with yourself for a while to do that.

Don't worry, you won't die alone, but let you have to let yourself breathe a bit and just frigging CHILL OUT and BE WITH YOURSELF.
posted by tristeza at 1:59 PM on October 9, 2009 [7 favorites]

the love of my life took more than 8 years to become what it is. we were friends, we hung out frequently, but we hadn't really ever entertained the notion of "being together".

i agree wholeheartedly with the "it can be by inches" comment above, and that's exactly how it went. if anything, we realized in hindsight that somewhere along the way we'd fallen in love, but at the time it was happening it didn't feel like that was the course we were on and it's gotten significantly more wonderful and powerful in the time since.
posted by radiosilents at 3:15 PM on October 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree with those who say you need to feel more comfortable with yourself and do more grieving and working out and through the feelings about your last relationship.

However, I disagree with those who say with certainty that "real" love by definition develops gradually and is definitely so different from a sudden, dramatic feeling of falling in love. I think both are possible (as others up there have said).

I'm wondering: do you have friends? Why is the choice between feeling desperately lonely vs. going on dates with people you're not really into or not ready to get close to?

It seems that you need a whole lot of "nurturing" right now, from people who don't have the expectations of you that a girlfriend will have.

I would try to spend time with friends and family, if those are available to you. So you will remember that you ARE loveable.

And, as others are saying, I would be honest with the woman you are currently seeing.

(oh, I also think it's silly to reduce complex human relationships to a neurotransmitter or to "evolutionary psychology." But that' s another topic.)
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:37 PM on October 9, 2009

I went on 1 date with a guy and he said he didn't want to see me again because I didn't make his heart pound. He said in his experience the only girls he dates long-term make his heart pound immediately. Personally, I think 1 date is barely enough time to get to know each other, but if he wants (to quote a friend) to pick his lawn service based on indigestion, that's his problem. Love at first sight is nonsense. I think he was a huge asshole for that, though.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:14 PM on October 9, 2009

"This new person wants to be serious"... does that means that she's starting to talk about the relationship and determine how long-term it is? If so, above all don't lie, or you'll cause a lot of hurt to her and probably to yourself.

I think the way to put this isn't "I'm not ready for a serious relationship" but "I'm not ready for one yet." You don't want to give the impression that you're not the committing type; it's evident that when you fall for someone, you fall hard. Hopefully you'll be in a better place in six months or so. She might be OK with this; if not, accept that she was a nice rebound relationship but you weren't what she needed right now.

As for the second question... sure, not all love is at first sight. And for that matter sometimes just having someone to go out with is nice for both parties. Just don't prolong it past, say, a year.
posted by zompist at 7:55 PM on October 9, 2009

"is it possible to fall in love with someone months after being with them?"

Yes. The more you get to know someone, the more you will appreciate her for who she is rather than for who you might want her to be.

"Or should I just have feelings from day one?"

Not necessarily. How's that for a totally unhelpful answer, eh? The truth is, chemistry is a powerful thing, and it can be the cause of what people mistake for love at first sight. I've definitely experienced that, and it's a wonderful, powerful and even beautiful thing... but it isn't really 'love.' How could it be? ...the fact that it isn't really 'love' doesn't mean it's any less spectacular when it happens.

When amazing chemistry happens... follow it. Enjoy it. Relish it. Share it. But, just because it doesn't instantly happen doesn't mean something wonderful can't grow from whatever connection you do have.

My $o.o2: Go slow and be honest. If you're enjoying this new relationship, tell your new girlfriend that, but also be honest with her about your past relationship and reasons for wanting to take this new relationship slowly.

On the other hand, if part of your issue is that you want to see other people... then, you need to end this new relationship. It wouldn't be fair for her if you were already looking for a way out or hoping for someone else.

No matter what you do, be honest - both with your new girlfriend and with yourself. It may be corny but it's true: honesty is the best policy.

Best of luck figuring all of this out!
posted by 2oh1 at 10:25 PM on October 9, 2009

I've personally been guilty of essentially leading someone along for months, and while it might have been possible that love was brewing slowly but surely as time went by, I felt all along that it wasn't going to happen. And that was the one and only relationship I've ever had. Damn sure if I didn't justify the heck out of it, telling myself I 'deserved' companionship and affection and that relationships begin and end for all sorts of reasons, so what if I just so happened to know this one would end from the start. Later - and especially after I was broken up with - I realized how I had cheated both him and myself from the real deal, and all in the name of what I told myself I deserved and my desperate need for the comforts of having a partner.

It really does sound like you're doing something similar and justifying it because you were taken on such a ride by your ex. Well it isn't justified; it's called being selfish. Don't go through the motions of romance if you aren't feeling it. You're permitting this woman to get further and further attached to you and further invested in the idea of being together, but just as everyone said it's super important that you tell her what's up. Even better, I think you should just back off of dating for a while and get yourself together. You've basically approached your current dating situation out of desperation and you need to figure out to be alone, first and foremost. So that you won't give in to this selfish need to lead people on, but rather be confident and secure enough to be with someone you have real feelings for.
posted by afabulousbeing at 9:30 AM on October 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

how long is too soon and how long is too long between the relationship? especially the relationship ened badly complete mislead. I thought moving on to next will help getting over and make me feel like i can do this again. so i dont understand when someone says "its too soon" to have relationship and the person is a great person and he/she seem really loves you.

posted by stillhopeful at 9:05 AM on October 18, 2009

I just read 'Dont love the new girl I'm seeing........ I dont want to hurt anyone - but dont want to lose her either... Can i fall in love months later? or is it always love or chemistry at first sight?'

As long as you are clear with her about how you feel then that's cool. Maybe she is ok with being casual about it to see how it pans out. But if she's not, at least you told her instead of letting it get to a point where she might be hurt.

You sound like a genuine enough person being concearned for her feelings.... you'll do the right thing I'm sure :)
posted by Hinny at 9:29 PM on April 5, 2010

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