Doubts about Starting a New Relationship Not Long After a Breakup...
March 28, 2010 12:23 PM   Subscribe

So, I'm just three months out of a 1-year relationship and recently met somebody really amazing. We're taking it very slowly so far, but after 4 or 5 dates I think there is definitely long-term relationship potential. The problem is: a voice at the back of my head is telling me maybe I'm not quite ready. How do I handle this?

A little background: The last breakup was a particularly tough one. Not because there was any nastiness involved on either end, but because it provoked some intense self reflection and realizations about my own relationship patterns. In short, I've had a tendency to rush into things, and my last two serious relationships have been with wonderful girls who were nevertheless not quite the right choices for me from the beginning-- and after long periods of trying to make things work, I ended up hurting both of them. The last couple of months have really made me think about exactly what I am looking for and I think I have made some good progress on that front.

Enter the new girl. We're taking it very slowly, as I think I should be. 4 or 5 dates over the past month. We haven't slept together yet, although there is plenty of sexual tension. Here's the thing. I sense she is getting a bit frustrated at the slow pace things are moving. I don't want to pass up what I think is a potentially amazing relationship, but at the same time the last thing I want to do is rush into another relationship and wind up with it being a "rebound" because I am not ready.

So, what I am wondering is this. Is there a middle ground here? Has anybody been in a similar position and ignored the voices in their head, only for it to work out? Is it natural to feel slightly ambivalent heading into another relationship, no matter how amazing the person may be? Or is this a clear danger sign that I need a few more months on the sidelines to work on myself?
posted by kramer1975 to Human Relations (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Always, always listen to that voice. Yes, it can be frustrating, especially when it's saying "Maybe you shouldn't be with her" and you want to be with her. It sounds like you still have a lot of learning to do about yourself in relationships. You may be three months out of your last relationship; at the same time, you're just beginning, in those three months, to really start looking at your entire relationship pattern over your lifetime. You still have ways to go - you say you're making good progress; you have to keep making that progress. I don't know if that means you should break up with her and spend more time being single; only you can make that decision. You don't want to pass up on this potentially amazing relationship, but how do you know this relationship isn't just like your last two, where both were wonderful people, but they weren't quite right for you?

But if you decide to stay with her, just be honest with her about where you're at. Be honest with yourself about what you want, and then tell her. Also, how did you meet her? Did you actively seek out another partner? If so, I'd be careful about that... if you break it off with her, it's probably not a good idea to go looking for another partner.
posted by foxjacket at 12:40 PM on March 28, 2010

What slow pace is she frustrated at? That you haven’t slept together. So sleep with her; that does not imply a long-term relationship.

Just do what makes you happy and if it stops making you happy then stop seeing her. She’s an adult (presumably), she’ll understand (presumably).
posted by mazniak at 12:44 PM on March 28, 2010

Be honest with her. Tell her that you've raced headlong into previous relationships and that you don't want to mess things up this go around. You think she's great and that your relationship will have potential, but you don't want to spoil it.

See what she says. She might be really understanding, she might walk away or she might be relived that you're really into her but think something more of her than just a quick fling. keeping her in the dark really won't help.
posted by Solomon at 12:57 PM on March 28, 2010

I agree that no sex by the fifth date would give me the impression of "not interested".

I also think that sex after you've talked to someone for what, 10-15 hours total? seems like rushing things if you're looking for a long term relationship rather than something casual that might turn into more.

For me, also not liking to rush into things, it works out better to build a friendship first, and then a relationship out of that, rather than "dating". Not that this is much help to you now! But maybe you could lay your feelings on the table and say that you'd rather spend some time getting to be friends, with no commitment, before jumping into things.
posted by emilyw at 1:20 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't feel comfortable having sex with her yet, don't. You shouldn't have sex before you want to just to keep someone interested. If she's reasonable, she'll understand. I waited a bit with my husband because he hadn't been in a relationship in awhile, and I was totally happy to do so because I liked him and respected his feelings.

I also don't think telling her you want to be friends first after being on a months' worth of dates will end well. If I heard that from a dude in my dating era, I'd assume he had no romantic feelings for me. If he then followed up with "but I do have romantic feelings for you", I'd be really confused, even with the explanation. I'd probably write off any chance of having a solid committed relationship in the future and pursue other options for the near future. I am far from every girl, so I don't know how yours would take it.

I think that 3 months out of a 1 year relationship is not too early to date, and if that dating turns serious, that is totally within the realm of normal. I think that the way you've described your issue, it's not the short time that elapses between partners, it's that you don't back off when you see warning signs that you might be incompatible with the person. And at 4-5 dates, it's too early to tell. You can walk the line between casual, far-apart dates and committed relationship. If you want to see her 2-3 times per week, do it.
posted by kpht at 1:49 PM on March 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Don't freak out about lingering doubts. There's only one way to find out if the relationship's going to work, and that's to give it a shot.

That doesn't mean you have to take her home to meet mom + dad and start looking at china patterns right away. Just let things progress normally. There's no need for any sort of serious conversation up front about your last relationship. We've all got our baggage, so there's no need to apologize for it.

Just avoid promising or implying a level of commitment you're not comfortable with, and if you start to feel pressured by your sense of her expectations, say something about it then.
posted by patnasty at 1:59 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be absolutely bloody true to yourself. Explain why you're taking things at a slow pace and be ok about losing her if she does get frustrated with it.

I think it's really important that each partner runs the early part of a relationship on terms they are absolutely comfortable with (with clear explanations why).

Else you risk making compromises only that catch up with you (and your partner) later on. Trust me. I've just come put of a relationship that has taught me that lesson...
posted by spaceandtime30 at 3:38 PM on March 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'd say listen to the little voice in your head. I started a relationship with someone else shortly after I'd gotten out of another long-term one, and even though it lasted quite some time I had that "I'm really not ready to be in another long-term relationship right now, but this guy is amazing and I don't want to lose him..." thing going on in the back of my head for the whole two years.

I also ignored signs that he might not be quite-right for me toward the beginning, and we ended up breaking up at year two because of a problem I noted at month two.

That being said, if someone had told me "don't do it" at the beginning I wouldn't have listened, and if I had listened I probably would be here telling you about how I passed up a great opportunity.

So I think it really depends on how you respond to things. If you can take things slow and be O.K. if you do lose the girl as a result of it, then I think you should keep going as you are. But if it's something you'll regret never trying, then go for it.
posted by biochemist at 4:01 PM on March 28, 2010

Easy-peasy. Tell her you think there's real long-term relationship potential between you, but given how your last break-up went, you have a little voice inside telling you to take your time -- and that you hope she'll be patient with you. The key is not that you're saying no, no relationship, just hey, if this thing has the legs I think it does we'll be together for a long, long time, so best not to rush faster than I can handle right now. I mean, what's wrong with the truth?
posted by davejay at 4:08 PM on March 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

Truth, truth, truth. Tell her you're not ready, despite your strong feelings for her. Who knows, she might respect you even more for being honest and then she'll *know* why you've been taking it slow. If she bails on you, that's her choice. It's not worth not listening to that voice in your head.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:02 PM on March 28, 2010

Small anecdote that might help you speak out about how you're feeling, so that she's aware and understands: I was once dating a trio of women (they knew about each other, so shush) and within the course of a month or so, all three got engaged to other guys. The part that's relevant to you is that one of them told me she decided to marry the other guy because she was sick of waiting for me to ask her to marry me -- and I had no idea whatsoever she had even the slightest interest in getting married, we'd never talked about it. I was quite taken aback, as if I'd known, I might have asked (we were quite close.) I'd assumed her apparent lack of interest was a lack of interest, and it turned out it was her being afraid to drive me away if she brought it up. Better to bring it up and see how it shakes out, than keep it hidden and risk her guessing you're just not that into her.
posted by davejay at 5:21 PM on March 28, 2010

Talk to her about it. That's the only way you can figure out if she's willing to continue to take it slow or if she wants to end it. It's hard to do, I know, but as your decision involves her, including her in the making of it will probably get you a better result than just deciding on your own.
posted by distracts at 12:34 AM on March 29, 2010

Here's the thing. I sense she is getting a bit frustrated at the slow pace things are moving. I don't want to pass up what I think is a potentially amazing relationship, but at the same time the last thing I want to do is rush into another relationship and wind up with it being a "rebound" because I am not ready.

so... um, have you TOLD her this? Exactly this? This is what good communication in a relationship is all about. If you're not comfortable with telling your partner these sorts of things at any phase of the relationship, then you should really examine why that is.

Has anybody been in a similar position and ignored the voices in their head, only for it to work out?

yes. If you're looking for anecdata / personal experiences; I started dating mr. lfr exactly 3 months after the breakup of my prior 2 year LTR. And there had been ongoing "chemistry" and tension between us for weeks on end before that, as he was someone I had known well for quite some time, even before I met my previous x, and as soon as he heard I was single, he started making himself very, um... persistent, I think would be the word. And I was all OH NO not a rebound boy, and ESPECIALLY not the cliche younger-man relationship drama. No. Not me.

Is it natural to feel slightly ambivalent heading into another relationship, no matter how amazing the person may be? oh HELL yes. See above. Not only was I extremely ambivalent about jumping right back in the dating pool with mr. lfr due to my lingering issues with the past relationship, there were all those other red herrings that made me certain it was a Really Bad Idea. Not the least of which is our 11 year age gap, and my then sort of arch disdain of his inexperience in the LTR department (I am his 4th girlfriend ever, and his longest LTR). In fact, I'm positive that had I posted an AskMe about "should I date him?" outlining all the various issues at the time, the overwhelming response from here would have been ZOMGNORUNAWAYRUNAWAY!!!

The saving grace in our example is that we have both, from the start, gone in with our eyes wide open to all the benefits and disadvantages of this relationship, and we have unbelievable, fantastic, amazing communication and chemistry. We can literally talk about anything, even the most sensitive and prickly subjects with each other, without taking it personally or getting defensive for longer than it takes to heave a deep sigh and go "wait, what I REALLY meant to say was...blablabla". That's it. No yelling, no slamming doors, no passive aggression, no resentment, no angst. I have no idea why we work so well, I just think we are amazingly well matched. And we would have missed out on what is turning out to be the best relationship of my lifetime, at least, had I refused him on the basis of being Inappropriately Young Rebound Boy (which is how I originally brushed off his advances, btw).

So if you're looking for solid advice, I really have to tell you that it absolutely depends. It's going to depend greatly on the maturity of both partners (and that has absolutely ZERO to do with chronological age, btw). It's going to depend on your willingness and ability to communicate. And one of the things it really depends on is the capacity for both of you to be flexible and willing to cut each other some slack.

I mean, seriously, sometimes I think the whole "rebound" relationship issue can be just an excuse for indulging yourself by acting out on someone. *collective gasp from AskMeFi audience*

No, hear me out on this. I know it's a long road to recovery from some relationships, and it takes time, and there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. However, I think if you find a really great person at an inconvenient time, and you're willing to acknowledge that up front, and you still have great chemistry and spark, and can communicate openly about stuff that bugs you, then your partner is going to be mindful of it. If you are both patient, forgiving and smart enough not to take some stuff personally, then you can readily call each other on some of the more useless crap that goes on throughout the getting-to-know-you process. And hopefully you have enough perspective to be able to do this in a good-natured manner, or with humour, such that you can laugh it off. Lord knows I treated the mister pretty superficially a few times early in, because in my mind I had automatically written him off as Mr. Right Now, and had never even considered him as a potential longterm mate. Apparently he had different plans, and he was willing to call me on it and continually work towards a better longterm plan. The best example of this was one day when I was being particularly dismissive, he actually went and put his swim trunks on and grabbed a bottle of suntan lotion (this was mid January and it was snowing out). I was like... "err, wtf dude?" And he was like "look, if you're going to treat me like the fucking pool boy, I should at least act the part, right?" Hilarity ensued, I apologised, we got over it, life goes on. Another time he made some snarky 4chan-esque comment about how stupid one has to be to get their car repo'd... when he knew that I'd had that exact thing happen to me in the past owing to job loss. I was like, "gee... thanks dude". He immediately realised what he'd said and apologised profusely, we hugged and that was it. The whole point is: we talk about this stuff, we call each other out (nicely) when the other's crossed a boundary, and then we LET IT GO. Bottom line, we don't project or take stuff personally or carry resentment, and we treat each other with respect because we Just Work Well Together.

tl;dr: summary -- it's just like going into any relationship, really. I think if you are a good match, you are a good match, and timing has nothing really to do with that if you are BOTH open, honest and forgiving with each other from the get go.

Good luck!
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:15 AM on March 29, 2010 [3 favorites]

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