OKCupid users and/or experienced daters: What's my next move?
February 4, 2010 10:12 AM   Subscribe

If you're online dating and the email correspondence drags on too long, what's the next move? Is it rude/unwise to ignore a long, thoughtful message when you'd really rather meet in person? I'd rather not miss my chance with this guy.

Here's some background. Feel free to skip ahead to the end if you want.

So I joined OKCupid about three months ago. I met someone right away, and he repeatedly asked to make things exclusive and spoke about being together long term, said he was deleting his account and pursuaded me to delete mine too. It turns out he was continuing to use OKC, and I found this out after he viewed my friend's profile. Clearly he was just using me for sex, which would have been fine with me if it had been mutual and not laced with all sorts of deception and insecurity. I made it clear to him that I was open to a casual relationship if that's what he wanted, but he chose to play me instead.

Needless to say, I completely severed ties with this guy and I'm trying to move on, so I rejoined OKC about two weeks ago. Now that I'm back on the site again I'm feeling a lot more guarded and want to do whatever I can to make sure I'm getting involved with people who want meaningful relationships.

Here's the new situation:

A really promising guy contacted me, and we began exchanging emails back and forth that have grown longer with each response. I'm really interested, and he seems genuinely interested too. I'm anxious to meet him, but I don't know what my next move should be.

At one point in our correspondence he gave me his phone number and suggested I give it a call. I told him I would use it soon, but that if he got impatient he could have mine as well. We continued exchanging long messages but I felt weird about calling him, so I held off on it for almost a week. I like to be pursued, I know it's old fashioned but it's what I want.

Just my luck, this past Sunday I lost the track ball on my blackberry and wasn't able to respond to the text he sent me on Monday. I sent him a short message on OKC explaining that I got his text but couldn't respond. He wrote back with another long response to a previous email, and said that if he had a little free time he would try and give me a call. He called late that night after I had already gone to bed, and I called him back the next day after work.

I *thought* we were really hitting it off, but after about 45 minutes he suddenly broke off the conversation saying soemething like "well with that, I'll stop talking your ear off and let you get back to whatever you were doing" and we said goodbye. I was taken aback, not because he didn't want to talk longer (believe me, I normally don't like talking on the phone and 45 minutes is more than enough for me). It was the way he ended the conversation that has me confused. I got a strange vibe and I can't tell if it's disinterest, insecurity, or what.

The other possibility I have in mind is this: I get the impression from his emails that he MIGHT be aware of his "motor mouth" tendency (thus the super-long emails) so maybe he was just trying to spare me from that? If he's worried that I'm losing interest then I want to reassure him, but I also don't want to come on too strong if that's not the case and HE's the one losing interest. I don't want to get burned again and I'm determined to avoid it.

My question is this: Should I respond to this guy's last super-long OKCupid message, or should I just hold off and wait to see if he calls me again? I would feel bad not acknowledging the time he took to write the message, but at the same time I don't want to come on too strong.
posted by maggymay to Human Relations (38 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If you're trying to date people, you should stop fretting over phone calls and emails and what they might mean and ask him if he wants to go on a date. I don't think there's much point in carrying on this kind of communication when you don't know if you have in-person chemistry.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:15 AM on February 4, 2010 [11 favorites]

You were having a really long conversation and he wasn't sure how to end it so he did it a little abruptly and awkwardly. That doesn't seem meaningful in terms of the question "Does he like me?" Sometimes people don't know how to end a phone call, no matter how you feel about the person. I would respond to his message with a date and a time for meeting up. That's the only way to find out if he's interested or not. At this point I would not even care so much about the "being pursued" thing with this guy. After all this back-and-forth I would just be looking for a way out of the swamp.
posted by amethysts at 10:19 AM on February 4, 2010

There is a galaxy between replying to an e-mail and getting burned again.
posted by thejoshu at 10:19 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

He might just be talky. Some people are talky. Why not respond with a brief message and say, "Hey, I'd love to talk about all of this over coffee sometime."

He's not disinterested if he has that much to say. If you fail to respond, you're not just wanting him to pursue, you're actively playing hard to get and he may very well lose interest because a lot of people aren't looking to jump through hoops to have a conversation. He may, if he's a bit inclined to run on at the mouth, be nervous about talking to you on the phone or in person. If you really aren't a phone person and 45 minutes is incredibly long for a call for you, it's very likely he could tell you weren't totally comfortable and it made him less comfortable. This is totally normal with online dating.

One of you has to be the one to take this to an in-person level. If you're the one who's not as comfortable talking through email and neither of you are obviously quite comfortable with the phone... then it sort of does fall on you to do something about that.
posted by larkspur at 10:19 AM on February 4, 2010

In my humble opinion, a guy who's been texting, sending mega long emails, and spending 45 minutes talking to you on the phone isn't losing interest. Obviously I wasn't there, but it sounds like he just felt self-conscious. It sounds like the time has come for you to meet, and I don't think you suggesting that will scare him off. And if something like that *would* scare him off, I don't think he's ready for the meaningful relationship you are looking for, anyways.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:20 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

"well with that, I'll stop talking your ear off and let you get back to whatever you were doing"

As a person with pretty severe "oh god I'm bothering you aren't I?" telephone anxiety, this sounds like insecurity to me. If you don't mind his chatter, specifically tell him so, but understand that it might be a while before he stops doing this sort of thing. Although you might, for instance, reassure him that you'll let him know if he's gone on too long, he would probably want to avoid having to be in that situation to begin with. Being told that you talk too much can be humiliating, no matter how kindly worded that telling may be; ending the conversation himself somewhat prematurely allows him to dodge that bullet.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 10:25 AM on February 4, 2010

Just write back and thank him for his email; tell him that you want to continue the conversation, but you'd rather do it on the phone or in person, since you enjoyed your last phone conversation with him so much, etc.

Don't mistake his being careful not to annoy you as a sign that he doesn't want to be the pursuer.
posted by bingo at 10:28 AM on February 4, 2010

Response by poster: Clarification: I'm not really as concerned as I sound about the ins and outs of the phone conversation/emails/etc. I just wanted to lay it all out there in case I'm missing any red flags.

I'm not a doormat or anything, I just like being pursued. Asking him out is not out of the question, it's just not ideal for me. All I'm asking is whether or not he'll take it personally if I don't respond in as much detail to his last email. I want to gently push him towards asking me out, and play just a LITTLE hard to get. I know he's probably interested, and if he's not then that's fine, whatever, I won't be heartbroken. I just don't want to shoot myself in the foot if he actually is insecure about "talking my ear off."
posted by maggymay at 10:30 AM on February 4, 2010

Yeah if he takes the time to write out a long message to you and you give him a sort of brush-off response, it will tell him you're not interested, not get him to ask you out. He does sound a little insecure, a little inexperienced, and not the type to say "What, you're slowing down? I'm going to go after you even harder now!"
posted by amethysts at 10:36 AM on February 4, 2010

It's been a few years since I've been actively dating new people, but as someone with some experience in meeting people online, it's my opinion that playing hard to get via OKC fails to work. Personally, I'd respond to a cool brush-off by finding someone else, not due to lack of confidence but rather lack of desperation. If you want to meet the guy, ask him out for coffee and be done with the OKC part of your courtship. There's plenty of opportunity for him to show genuine interest in person.
posted by ellF at 10:44 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're not up for writing novels but want to appear interested, respond appropriately to the comments that interest you and toss in a few of your own.

Example: He writes five pages worth of commentary on his trip to the botanical gardens, how much his job sucks, and something about the grocery store.

You: "Wow, sounds like you had killer time at the botanical gardens! I once went to one at Blah Blah Blah and it was so much fun, etc. Were there birds? The one at Blah Blah Blah had an aviary. My boss is a dick as well, he totally ate my sandwich even though I had it in one of those clever mold sandwich bags, LOL!" Or whatever. Ignore the grocery store.

It's not necessary to respond to every detail he types out, is my point.

If he ended the conversation awkwardly, he may have hung up and beat himself up about being such a dweeb. So if you respond, it may make him feel better. If you want to meet the guy, drop something in about going to read at a bookstore, how much you are looking forward to getting a pumpkin spice latte before they're discontinued for the year, or ponder which scary moves you'll watch all alone on Valentine's Day. Give him an opening, in other words.

Best of luck. I met my boyfriend on OKC and things are great two years later.
posted by caveat at 10:46 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree with amethysts, I think a short response would indicate you are not interested.

My suggestion would be to just mention the possibility of meeting up in your email response. Then, you can leave it to him, if you like, to be pro-active and organise the date, and be the pursuer. I mention this because of a situation with a guy I met online. He was a very sweet, kind man who, with five sisters, was super cautious about making sure I felt comfortable about the pace of things. He was definitely pursuing me, but I had to suggest meeting up in person.
posted by unlaced at 10:50 AM on February 4, 2010

The best way I can think of to get what you want is to send a brief reply asking to continue the conversation in person.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:57 AM on February 4, 2010

I like to be pursued, I know it's old fashioned but it's what I want.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be pursued. However, I think it best to acknowledge the trade offs. The problem is this. You are like everyone else who wants someone who will invest in them, really care about them and treat you in the way you want to be treated. Guys who are willing to strongly pursue in the beginning of the relationship are often people who aren't willing to really invest. Its like buying things. Picking between brands of chocolate milk is easy, because you're paying $1.50. But when you are really investing, like with a house or a car, you do a lot more, because the stakes are higher. You test drive models, you look stuff up on the internet, you hire a house inspector to review the house.

Many men are just like that. If they are just looking for something simple, easy and primarily sexual, pursuing is easy. They will tell you anything, becasue if you reject them, it will not hurt very much. This is why guys that women call "players" have an easy time meeting and doing what you call "playing" women. Because they can say things that sound like investment without worrying about really being hurt. To them it is just advanced flirting. And although you don't like it, I don't see anything inherently wrong with it. These "players" have goals and they are doing the things they want to obtain those goals. There's no difference between them and women who will take romantic attention from men they really have little interest in. They are just people going for what they want.

What makes it hard is that the things that the guys you call "players" do simulates qualities that are very attractive--the appearance of independence and strength and being OK with outcomes that one did not hope for. These things are attractive for men and women alike. But not caring very much about whether or not a particular person likes you or not isn't the same thing as being able to emotionally accept that someone you really like may not like you. A man who is ok with a woman he has real interest deciding she is not into him is highly attractive--he is strong, well-balanced, and knows he will find someone else.

It is hard to distinguish between these two things. And when guys want to invest, they are going to take it a bit slow and try and figure out things first. That can be a turn-off, especially when there are others out there who are willing to provide you with instant gratification and the feeling like you are special.

So, if you want a chance with this guy, try to see it from his perspective. He doesn't really know you well. He is interested, but wants to know more before he jumps in. You have to fill his information deficit by being more interested in him if you want things to work out.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:58 AM on February 4, 2010 [18 favorites]

The other issue is this: one can avoid difficult emotions by playing "hard to get." Fears, insecurities and all of that can be avoided or denied by just not putting yourself out there and letting them come to you. But the problem is that guys who really do have their shit together will not pursue you. Since they are looking for someone to invest in, they are not going to be particularly interested in someone who isn't willing to step up and reciprocate interest because it indicates that the person is someone who is not confident, and also does not handle difficult emotions well. These are persons I have learned to avoid by long experience. So you have a double-whammy.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:02 AM on February 4, 2010 [8 favorites]

I think respond in kind (emails to emails, phone calls to phone calls) so that he knows you're interested. If you want to play hard a little hard to get (and there are some benefits to that -- not for the purpose of being "rules-ish" but for the purpose of being clear about his level of interest) leave it to him to escalate.

Agree with the others that he hasn't shown any clear red flags yet. He just seems hesitant. That's not to say he isn't secretly married or something but that doesn't show up yet.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 11:03 AM on February 4, 2010

The other side to what Ironmouth is saying (and I'm not disagreeing with Ironmouth, just adding another side) is that while (to use a very crude imaginary statistic) 80% of women will turn down 80% of men who pursue them, 80% of men will accept 80% of women who pursue them, therefore, for a man to be accepted by a woman means something, whereas for a woman to be accepted by a man means less. I think that's why women need to play a little bit hard to get, or at least feel things out carefully, otherwise they can just end up with a man who is accepting her because she is available rather than because he has any serious interest in her and that can lead to a lot of disappointment and time-wasting for both sides.
posted by y6t5r4e3w2q1 at 11:07 AM on February 4, 2010 [9 favorites]

posted by yarly at 11:16 AM on February 4, 2010 [4 favorites]

Favorite times 100.

Check out The Rules for Online Dating. You are pretty much there instinctively already (unless you've read it!): understanding the importance of moving things from online to in-person, not wanting to enter into a dragged-out pen-pal correspondence, wanting to be pursued, wanting him to call you. You might get some interesting insights and perspectives, and have some things that you're already thinking articulated.

My advice, shaped by a childhood of Rules-rearing, is to send back a short-but-sweet reply. Definitely interested in what he wrote, not a brush-off, but ask him no questions or make no comments to which he'll feel the need to send another lengthy response. And at the end you can add something about having to "dash off," and looking forward to talking to him (not hearing from him) soon.

And there are people who want pursuer-pursued relationships (where playing hard-to-get is a fact of life) and people who don't (where you can "just call him already"). It seems like you're pretty confident in what you want -- don't cave, to guys or to other mefites!
posted by thebazilist at 11:20 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

When I was on Match, eons ago, I wrote too damn much. On my first date with my now-wife, I talked her goddamn ear off. And apologized with much the same wording as your guy. Don't over think it -just point blank respond via email - "Let's meet up. Tonight. You pick a place!"
posted by notsnot at 11:22 AM on February 4, 2010

And, a problem with online-dating, and I think with OkCupid especially because it's free, is that you get a lot of people who aren't necessarily very serious about having a real relationship. So you might find yourself dealing with a lot of guys who are having an awesome time flirting with women online, and love being able to tell all their thoughts to different women, but maybe are not socially/emotionally ready to or not interested in taking things to the next level and having real-life consequences that can't be clicked away.

I think if a guy really wants a girlfriend and wants you, he'll want to see you in person pretty quickly. Actually, even guys who just want sex will want to see you in person. So I feel like the guys who are reluctant to move it to real life have issues that you probably don't need. This is from OkCupid-specific experience.
posted by thebazilist at 11:25 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ask him if he'd like to meet for drinks. Some people simply have no clue how to date, and so, they drag every step of the process on and on because they're scared to make the next move. The irony is that, by dragging on each step, they decrease their odds of ever getting a date. Or a boyfriend/girlfriend. Or a relationship.

Ask him out. Meet in person. Until you do, there's no way to know if there will be any real chemistry there.

Best of luck!
posted by 2oh1 at 11:53 AM on February 4, 2010

Tell your brain to stop thinking so much.

Playfully ask him what a girl has to do get a drink bought or something along those lines.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:57 AM on February 4, 2010

Drop hints as to various things you would like to do or see in the near future.
posted by Sticherbeast at 11:58 AM on February 4, 2010

The problem with "playing hard to get" is that you're play acting. Why would you start a potential relationship with anything less than the truth? If what you want is to meet him, call him up or email him and suggest... meeting him.

When I was doing a lot of online dating, I threw the gender BS out the window, in part because throwing gender BS out the window is part of who I am. I asked a lot of guys to meet me for drinks or for dinner and none of them said no. The conversations almost always gravitated towards what each of us were seeking in a relationship and one thing I always made clear in those talks is "I like being wooed. I enjoy romance in a relationship."

And you know, acting on my wants and being transparent about my needs worked out for me. Some guys didn't call again. One guy took me to Paris for the weekend. Any number of guys worked the in-between.

Ask for what you want. If "Do you want to meet up for coffee?" is too upfront for your particular style, than say the same thing in reverse: "I'd like to meet up whenever you're ready to issue an invitation." That expresses your want while putting the ball in his court, and frankly I see no down side to that.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:19 PM on February 4, 2010 [5 favorites]

Never send more than a few (2, 3 max) e-mails when corresponding to another person unless they insist on it. Take it to the next level as soon as both parties are comfortable. This prevents both sides from making too many false expectations or assumptions about the other person. Many people act differently online than they do in person, so limit online correspondence as much as possible and just schedule an in-person date.

To answer your specific question:

"Should I respond to this guy's last super-long OKCupid message, or should I just hold off and wait to see if he calls me again?"

If you want to know him better, stop with the guessing games, message him and ask him out on a date (with several specific calendar dates in mind). If he is busy (whether it's true or not), move on and look for fresh waters. If he is interested, he will get back to you at this point. If he is not, you have already starting looking to meet new people which is good as well.
posted by seppyk at 12:34 PM on February 4, 2010

Liking to be pursued is fine, but playing hard to get is probably going to confuse the heck out of this nice, earnest guy who obviously likes you.

It sounds like you'd rather move on to in-person dating. So this is what you say: "Hey, let's prevent carpal tunnel and brain cancer and talk in person instead. I'd REALLY like you to ask me out right now. Hint, hint."

A little bit of direct communication in order to move past some awkwardness doesn't make you an aggressive person. Don't sacrifice a nascent relationship to The Rules, you know?
posted by desuetude at 12:54 PM on February 4, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, I just want to say thank you to everyone who took time to read and respond. I'm floored by the amazing, thoughtful responses from everyone. Hopefully some other woebegotten OKcupid users will get some use out of this.

While it's all excellent advice, I'm still trying to decide which would work best for me personally. But I think I'm getting closer. I'm not very assertive by nature, though I will do the asking if I feel it's really necessary. Playing hard to get is off the table, I agree. From what I can tell so far, this guy seems like the "Mr. Amazing" type (think "cartoon pilot" a la 30 Rock). He's tall, handsome, full social life, lots of interests and hobbies. I doubt he'll have trouble moving on and finding someone else if I play it cool. I on the other hand tend to overthink things...BobbyDigital you're totally right.

I don't think I'm making up the insecurity. There has to be some reason he's on OKCupid, so maybe that's it. I don't know. But personally I really like that "talky" quality. I'd like to be able to communicate to him that I'm not much of a talker myself and would PREFER the other person to talk my ear off.

I'll just text him as soon as my phone get fixed saying I really enjoyed our conversation and I hope he did too. That way I can continue the general correspondence and show him I'm still interested without actually responding to his email and without asking him out myself. Hopefully that will show him that I'm ready to move on to the next step.
posted by maggymay at 12:57 PM on February 4, 2010

You might also think of the first meeting on OKCupid as something other than Date #1. Maybe it's Date #0, as it were, because it is more meeting than dating. I've just recently started dating someone via OKC, and as soon as I read his first message to me I said, "Let's meet." I didn't think of it as a date, I didn't say "Let's go on a date," I just thought of it as actually meeting this guy, because for me, until you've met in person, you don't actually have the basis yet to go on a date.

At that first meeting, he asked me to go out with him to a concert and I accepted. That was really the first date, not our chat over coffee.

If you think of it in those terms, you can always use Date #0 to get someone in front of you, to see if you actually have chemistry in person, but (since you like to be pursued) Date #1 and beyond can be the other person's responsibility.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:10 PM on February 4, 2010

I'll just text him as soon as my phone get fixed saying I really enjoyed our conversation and I hope he did too. That way I can continue the general correspondence and show him I'm still interested without actually responding to his email and without asking him out myself. Hopefully that will show him that I'm ready to move on to the next step.

I had an experience where a woman who was an aquaintance indicated she was really interested. I called and left a message and got no response. I chalked it up to craziness. However, two weeks later I got a breathless call from her--she had just returned from Africa and was calling me seconds after coming throught the door. She often traveled there, so no biggie, and we went out a few times. It didnt' work for me, but you'll get a chance once you send the message.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:39 PM on February 4, 2010

There has to be some reason he's on OKCupid, so maybe that's it.

To meet people.

Can I gently suggest that you not judge him for being on OKCupid?
posted by desuetude at 1:41 PM on February 4, 2010 [6 favorites]

Here is the thing about online dating that I've noticed.

There are a bunch of creeps on the internet. And even worse, we have all been warned by our mothers that every online dater is secretly a serial killer. We have all been warned by our friends that only losers meet people online. We have been taught to be extra extra cautious.

Plenty of decent men are aware of this, and choose to try and build a rapport and wait until they are certain the other party is comfortable with them before going off-line.

While you can certainly let him plan the details of your first date, you need to be clear that you're willing to make the leap from internet to Real Life. There are plenty of people who aren't.
posted by politikitty at 1:52 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I see your point, it sounded harsh but that's not how I meant it. You're taking it out of context. I'm sticking with what I said. I think a little insecurity is completely normal and it doesn't bother me. Everyone I know who does online dating has admitted that they're doing it because they find it difficult to meet people who are right for them, for one reason or another. Be that insecurity, very specific tastes, high standards, feeling out of place at bars and/or clubs, etc. I'm not saying everyone on OkCupid is crazy, overly shy, and/or a loser...obviously. But we all have our reasons for joining. I was just speculating on what his might be.
posted by maggymay at 1:59 PM on February 4, 2010

Politikitty makes a really important point. I've seen comments in this and other threads saying things like, "If a guy doesn't ask you out after 2 messages, move on!" As if any further breaking-the-ice online shows he's too wimpy and indecisive. This seems to assume that a man should always asks out a woman as soon as he's convinced he'd like to spend time with her in person. He might actually care about the woman's feelings as well as his own and, as politikitty said, be waiting until he feels confident that both people would be comfortable meeting in person. (Of course, I don't know what's so terrible about a man actually taking some time to get comfortable with this either -- but it's not for me to tell you whether to prioritize finding a man who makes decisions fast.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:44 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

*This seems to assume that a man should always ask...
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:45 PM on February 4, 2010

There has to be some reason he's on OKCupid, so maybe that's it.

FWIW, I did online dating because it was the most efficient way to meet new people. I also signed up for an actual, old-fashioned matchmaker! I took Operation New Boyfriend very, very seriously.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:27 PM on February 4, 2010

You can make your wishes known and still let him pursue you. Just tell him you don't like carrying on really long correspondences, unless you've already met the person in real life and that he is welcome to ask you out whenever he wants. Then don't participate in the correspondence at the same level as before.

The ball is now in his court.
posted by Locochona at 3:44 PM on February 7, 2010

Just take a cue from Lorraine in the first Back to the Future: "Marty ... I hope this isn't too forward ... but I was wondering if ... you'd ask me to go with you to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance??"
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:02 PM on February 7, 2010

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