How do I keep my distance without crushing someone's heart?
January 11, 2010 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm 25. She's 20. We're 4 hours apart. I think a relationship is a bad idea. How do I communicate this without making everything explode?

Backstory: This girl & I met online and began talking for long periods of time almost immediately. Our personalities are very similar, we crack each other up, and we're both interested in the same nerdy science/history stuff. Simply put, we make a good team.

We have hung out a few times (my current city is her hometown, so she's been home from college) and the same "click" is there in person. Things progressed, and we made out (nothing more) the past couple times we have seen each other. We talked it over, and agree that, while both of us like each other, we shouldn't date at this point in time. We both have similarly cynical views on relationships, and while far from an ideal solution, this was something we were okay with.

Or so I thought. Today I got an email where she seemed to regret making out while not being in a relationship (more on that later) and followed up by simply asking "What are you so afraid of?" I have not yet responded, because I recognize that this is a Big Thing.

So, I feel that I have to explain my reasons for not wanting to date, while emphasizing that our making out doesn't make us terrible people.

My reasons:

-Distance. I've been in long-distance relationships, and it sucks. Even when the relationship is established and the distance is less than 4 hours' driving, I've struggled with this. I do not want to start a relationship with built-in distance.

-I'm burned out on dating. I've dated a few people in the past year, and the last made me realize that I don't have the energy/attention/devotion for anything serious. That one ended in November, so I feel like I need "me" time and not to worry about someone else's emotional state.

-Relative dating experience. She's dated one guy before, for a very brief period. I've been in several long-term relationships, as well as the aforementioned recent relationship that I ignored to death. (She knows this, but maybe not that it was so recent.)

-Age. When I present this to my friends, their retort is "Dude, she's 20" followed by "Dude, she's twenty!" While we get along swimmingly, have very similar interests, etc., I recognize that we are in different phases of life. I have a 9-5 job, she goes to a Chrisitan college.


How do I best explain this without sounding condescending and assuaging her guilt for kissing a dude she's not dating? I'm perfectly aware that this could likely mean an end to our friendship, or at least a diminished one. I don't want to hurt her, but I don't want to date her right now because I'd end up hurting her anyways.

(Also, what am I so afraid of?)
posted by Turkey Glue to Human Relations (32 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Tell her you're not up for dating right now after a LTR that went sour; you're especially not up for a LDR; you're even less up for a LDR that starts as a LDR; and you want to date people closer to your age. You're not a bad person for making out.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:25 AM on January 11, 2010


I don't know, but the age difference is not an issue.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:25 AM on January 11, 2010 [7 favorites]


I don't think you're "afraid" of anything--I think you don't want to be in a long-distance relationship with someone who's still in college, which makes sense. If she doesn't get that, that's her problem (and another good reason not to be in a relationship with her--people who tell you that you don't understand yourself as well as they do are people from whom you should run like the motherfucking WIND).
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:27 AM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's an issue for Turkey Glue. Age matters.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:27 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


"You want a relationship. I'm not in a place where I can offer you one now, no matter how great you are. I don't want to hurt you any more than I have to and I don't want to give you hope for something that isn't going to happen, so I'm going to break contact with you. Goodbye."

And then break contact with her.

Her feelings about smooching you are hers, and aren't your fault or responsibility.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:28 AM on January 11, 2010


How do you best explain it without being condescending? The first two are reasons are enough. (The other two bullets, while completely valid if you agree with them, are where the condescension might creep in.)

You're both adults and you made out. If she feels guilty about this and you don't, this is a sign that you two aren't on a similar wavelength with regards to sex and relationships, which might also be a big red flag. She may be feeling guilty. She may also be throwing this out there to make you feel guilty. But the very fact that she's bringing it up is a reason for NOT being together, not a reason to do it.

Be straight forward and don't half-ass with the explanations of why not in an attempt to spare her feelings. You don't seem like you've been leading her on, but by not being upfront with her, you will be headed down that road.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:28 AM on January 11, 2010


I've been in several long-term relationships, as well as the aforementioned recent relationship that I ignored to death. (She knows this, but maybe not that it was so recent.)

She may be more understanding if she DID know it was this recent. You clearly don't want to lead her on to think that you're ready for something you're NOT ready for, and this would at least help her understand why.

As for "alleviating her guilt", that may be a thornier issue -- she may have to ultimately do it on her own. But, you could also remind her that it wasn't just HER kissing YOU -- it was YOU kissing HER. And these were your motivations for wanting to do so, which were probably all tied into that tumult you're feeling about that recent relationship, about which see above...

At the end of the day, you want her to know that it's not so much her that you're rejecting, it's the context and the timing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:29 AM on January 11, 2010


Wow. If I felt bad for every guy I kissed when I was in my 20s without dating them, I would have been, well, feeling guilty A LOT. Maybe it's a cultural or religious thing, but that's what people do and it's nothing to feel bad about.

As far as the fear thing goes, you have stated perfectly logical reasons for not wanting to date her, I haven't seen anything particularly fear-based. If I were you, I would focus on the distance and the burned out on dating thing when you talk to her (the other two points, while valid, will probably not go over well). Tell her that you want a break from any serious relationships and if making out was leading her on you apologize and you want to back things down a level. If she completely wigs out, which may happen depending on how mature she is, apologize again, but avoid buying into the drama.
posted by Kimberly at 10:29 AM on January 11, 2010


That one ended in November, so I feel like I need "me" time and not to worry about someone else's emotional state......I don't want to hurt her, but I don't want to date her right now because I'd end up hurting her anyways.

You say you don't want to worry about another person, but here you are, worrying about this girl. If you don't want to date her, don't date her. I don't think you owe her any explanations beyond that, and I think trying to convince her that she should feel the way you do and see your reasoning behind it will be a waste of time and will cause more drama than it's worth. I agree that cutting contact, at least for now, is probably the best way to help her move on.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:31 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Everything will probably explode 10 times worse if you don't say anything now. Get it over with, like tearing a band-aid off.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:32 AM on January 11, 2010


Although the age difference and distance don't seem like big hurdles to me, they are to you, and that's all that matters.

Other than that, I really wouldn't give a detailed bullet-pointed list of reasons. She might interpret them as flaws or as "but wait we could get around this!"

Anyway, here's one of the best breakup advice comments in the history of AskMe. Not much I can add to it.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2010


Or so I thought. Today I got an email where she seemed to regret making out while not being in a relationship (more on that later) and followed up by simply asking "What are you so afraid of?" I have not yet responded, because I recognize that this is a Big Thing.

Regardless of age/maturity, getting physical with someone is something she attaches a considerable amount of meaning to. That, or she's harbouring some guilt from a conservative upbringing, which the Christian college thing kind of implies. She may or may not change her perspective on sex/relationships in the future, so age is largely an irrelevant point. Either way, she's an adult, and you're not responsible for ensuring that she stays within her personal boundaries.

That said, I think you need to be upfront with her about the differences in how you regard sex and dating. This isn't about making her feel bad for her choices/boundaries/guilt/whatever; it's about letting her know why you and her can't work out. As well, making her aware of this may very well help her to choose guys with values closer to her own in the future.
posted by thisjax at 10:34 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're doing a fine job explaining yourself. I don't think you have any further responsibilities.
posted by grobstein at 10:34 AM on January 11, 2010


You have good advice here. After you resolve this, though, I wonder how you'll weight these reasons. Three of them (age, distance, experience) are related to this particular woman as a potential partner. The fourth ("burned out on dating") would theoretiically apply to anyone you met. If that reason really does feel strong to you right now - if you really feel you need time that you're not in a relationship, to let the past settle and regroup and enjoy your freedom - then take that time, and while you do that, don't pursue intense noncasual online connections and makeout sessions with new people until you're ready to date again. It might be that you got into this present situation before realizing you weren't ready for a new relationship, but now that you know, you can avoid backing into one accidentally and getting someone else involved.
posted by Miko at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2010


nthing that you've got this down.
posted by xammerboy at 10:45 AM on January 11, 2010


She was probably never as on-board with the idea of a relationship being absolutely off the menu and just followed your lead on that. I suspect that she is more intrinsically "into you" than you are into her, though it's hard to separate this from that aspect of inexperience and youthful (and possibly religious) over-idealization of relationships (i.e. looking at relationships as something that is "revealed" rather than developed, and as something the outcome of which is uncertain and based on choices and actions rather than "meant to be" - I'm stereotyping a bit but doing so as an active Christian who was once a young and inexperienced 19-year-old Christian dater). Investing too much meaning in getting physical/sexual feelings goes right along with youth, inexperience and religion as well.

To an extent I think that how you respond is only going to matter slightly as she is probably in a very different place with her perspective on your potential relationship than you are, and you are certainly not going to bring her around to your point of view.

I'd stick to the distance issue. While not for everyone I've always been of the opinion for myself that I can't develop a real relationship if you aren't in the same town. The problem with the "burn out" issue is that you pull that and two months later Ms. Perfect comes along and you start dating her and that's a big ol' Fuck You to Ms. 20. She will probably not buy the dating experience and age issues (and honestly these are pretty weak anyway, they are far from insurmountable if you were really into this relationship) and bringing them up will just seem like you're talking down to her.

I doubt there's much use in investing a lot into trying to make her not feel guilty about kissing you if she does. You can certainly assert that the two of you didn't do anything wrong but she's going to feel the way she feels. I hope you are going to man up and make sure this friendship doesn't get physical again. Given her obvious wish for a relationship with you and her youth and inexperience it would really be taking advantage to do so even if she is willing to agree in the moment that it doesn't mean you are in a relationship. Let her be 20 and inexperienced and find her way further into the relationship jungle with someone who is on the same page as she is.

(What are you so afraid of? Man, from the perspective of 38 and married with kids it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. I think your instinct is sound).
posted by nanojath at 10:50 AM on January 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think overexplaining it has a potential to backfire... from what little we know, it sounds like she might try and argue her way into a relationship?

I'd keep it simple, and kind: "You are great, and I have a lot of fun with you, but I'm just not in a good place for a long distance relationship or any relationship at all. Let's take it slow, and keep in touch, and maybe down the road we can try this again."
posted by CharlesV42 at 10:57 AM on January 11, 2010


What are you afraid of? It doesn't sound like you're afraid at all. You've outlined several personal reasons for not pursuing this relationship. If they matter to you, they matter for the relationship. You have preferences about long-distance relationships, dating, relative experience, and age/life stage differences. That's ok. You're allowed to want (and pursue) what you want.

You don't owe her an objectively valid explanation for not dating her. You're making a choice about a dating relationship, not getting out of jury duty. I think you could stay as nonspecific as "I've enjoyed spending some time with you, but I don't think a serious dating relationship is going to work out for me. I'm sorry that you feel guilty about how things progressed between us."
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:03 AM on January 11, 2010


For the record, age isn't a huge deal for me, but I think it represents a difference in philosophy. I remember what it was like to date for the first time or two, and that's a completely foreign land compared to where I am now (makeout wooooo.) Also, when all your friends say "Dude she's twenty," that adds a layer of stress that makes me cranky (that may be more of a reflection of my friends & their biases, but still.)

Anyways, I'll write an email explaining everything (besides those parts that could be misconstrued) once I get home from work. Typing it out in AskMe helped, as have your responses so far. Thanks!
posted by Turkey Glue at 11:11 AM on January 11, 2010


She is framing this situation as if the only possible reason that you are not dating her is that you are afraid of dating her.

This is self-evidently not true, and you don't have to respond to her message as if it is true.

It's not your responsibility to make her comfortable with her own actions, and it's not your responsibility to justify yourself to her as if you have committed some crime in not dating her.

Therefore, I'd respond with something straightforward, like "I enjoy talking nerdy science with you, but I don't think it would be a good idea for us to have a relationship".

If she asks why, say something vague like "It just doesn't feel right to me" - this is something that nobody can argue with!
posted by emilyw at 11:14 AM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tell her you're in love with someone else or else you're just leaving the door open. You don't want her getting fixated on you and that's what's happening.
posted by anniecat at 11:20 AM on January 11, 2010


Tell her you're in love with someone else

What? He's not in love with someone else.

Lying is not the answer here.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2010 [5 favorites]


Tell her you're in love with someone else

I'm with Sidhedevil - this makes no sense.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:57 AM on January 11, 2010


If you don't want to date her, you don't have to date her. What you don't need to do is over-analyze it or explain it to anyone; us and her included.

Turning her down at this point or later on will always most likely result in drama but again, you aren't legally required to explain anything to her. Also remember that turning her down now will mean that you have no future chances, so don't get the false impression that you can postpone this for a magical future time when all is right. If you kill it now it is dead.

In the future, I would recommend to NEVER OVER-ANALYZE a relationship before you start dating. Either do it or don't because if you want to think logically about love, it will never compute.
posted by JJ86 at 12:05 PM on January 11, 2010


She will probably not buy the dating experience and age issues (and honestly these are pretty weak anyway, they are far from insurmountable if you were really into this relationship)

Well, he isn't that into this relationship. I'd just tell her that dating someone who's out of college while you're in college, 4 hours away, is gonna be doomed from the getgo. I wouldn't mention the burnout or the rebound, though, because that stuff, as pointed out above, can backfire on you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:17 PM on January 11, 2010


what's wrong with her just being geographically undesireable? IIRC gas prices are going up, and 4 hours is a bit of a drive. Tell her you don't have the time to get into a long distance thing right now.
posted by Gungho at 12:24 PM on January 11, 2010


Tell her you're in love with someone else

What? He's not in love with someone else.

Lying is not the answer here.


I thought it was much nicer than saying, "I'm just not that into you."
posted by anniecat at 12:53 PM on January 11, 2010


Saying "I'm in love with someone else" is saying "I'm not that into you," and in this case it would also be a gratuitous lie. There's nothing "nice" about it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:04 PM on January 11, 2010 [1 favorite]


nicer than saying, "I'm just not that into you."

There's nothing wrong with saying "I'm just not that into you." It's not unkind, it's treating the other person like an adult rather than some fragile child.

This girl will not break if you tell her honestly you're not interesting in pursuing things any further. I'm not saying she won't be sad, but she'll call her girlfriends and talk/cry it out, and then she'll move on.
posted by Meg_Murry at 1:44 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


You have gotten a lot of really good advice upthread so I will just say this: I agree with nanojath that there is a possibility she was never quite on board with the idea that the two of you shouldn't date.

Also, I don't know her, but I think it's possible that when she said she regretted making out while not being in a relationship, it's not just that she thinks doing that is immoral or wrong. It may be that a part of her thinks, "I was good enough to make out with but not to date," or, similarly, that even being physical with you wasn't enough for you to want to be with her. I think often (not always, but often), different things go on in girls' and guys' heads while physical stuff happens, when there's no commitment yet, especially when the girl is very young and not very experienced. Something along the lines of- Girl: "We love each other more and more" Guy: "$*@)#*$ (just thinking about the act itself)"

So... I think her feelings might be hurt, and she might be feelings like she put herself out there and was rejected. Just something to keep in mind.
posted by Ashley801 at 2:46 PM on January 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


Follow-up: I sent her a pretty basic email stating that I don't want a relationship now and I don't do long distance relationships period (because they're a drag.) She was initially super-pissed because I hurt her, stopped talking to me, then sent an email apologizing for that and saying that we should be friends, but nothing more. I apologized for the misunderstanding and taking things further than we should have without a dating/not-dating agreement, and we're back to chatting about nerdy science and history.

So, it was stressful and a little convoluted, but it turned out okay. Thanks for the help.
posted by Turkey Glue at 7:41 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This girl will not break if you tell her honestly you're not interesting in pursuing things any further. I'm not saying she won't be sad, but she'll call her girlfriends and talk/cry it out, and then she'll move on.

We don't know this would happen, we don't have her side of the story. She may be in love with you. Don't just push away a relationship you may be afraid of...
posted by shortbus at 4:00 PM on March 8, 2010


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