Adjusting romantic expectations?
October 26, 2010 4:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm rarely interested in the people who show romantic interest in me, and the people who I'm interested never return the sentiment. What's going on here?

The relationships I've had have all arisen from a girl making it quite clear she was interested in me and my going along with it for a bit, before losing interest and breaking things off. I hate this pattern, and I feel like I've hurt people because of it.

However, I've never had interest I've paid to a girl met with a positive response. I'm not socially inept or anything, and have plenty of platonic female friends, but I feel like I just can't successfully court someone. Directly asking someone out, I get a gentle let-down. Being more subtle generally makes women pull away.

I don't think I'm overvaluing myself as a partner: certainly a lot of the women I've dated have been attractive, successful people. I suspect the problem might be one of culture or fashion: I'm a pretty clean-cut professional, and present as such, but my social circle is fairly bohemian, and the girls I find interesting I generally meet through friends.

Other than that, I'm at a loss. Do I need to adjust my preferences to suit the kind of women who are interested in me? How exactly would I do that? Or is the problem more likely with how I communicate, some weirdness that comes out when I pursue someone?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm rarely interested in the people who show romantic interest in me, and the people who I'm interested never return the sentiment. What's going on here?

This is actually pretty normal. It's tough to find people who are the right fit. Even tougher when you're radically different from your social circle, and that's how you're meeting women. It would help you to expand your social circle to people who are a little more like you. Don't limit yourself to those types, by any means, but we're attracted to what we're attracted to, and no amount of open-mindedness can change that. Go out and meet the kind of people you're attracted to. It won't be an instant home run, but your chances will be better.
posted by katillathehun at 5:00 PM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm wondering how old you are. When I was in my early 20s, it seemed a lot of guys I knew were into 'the chase.' As in, they need to chase after a girl to find her interesting--her early lack of interest was almost a requirement.

Then again, this could be a normal it's-hard-to-meet-people-you-really-connect-with thing. Maybe you need to get better at saying no to women who ask you out, but whom you don't especially like. This would at least free up some time to pursue the women you do like.

Another suggestion: surely you have some friends you don't hang out with all that often. Maybe try hanging out with them once in a while. It might help you meet some new folks who are more like you?
posted by bluedaisy at 5:12 PM on October 26, 2010

I am a little confused by your wording about culture and fashion—do you mean that you want to find someone who is more like you, or that you are attracted to people who are different, and you have a hard time meeting them because you appear dissimilar? If it's the former, the advice above seems good; if it's the latter, are there activities you could do, either with friends or without, where it wouldn't matter so much how you present yourself, fashionwise? Halloween is coming up, for one thing, and that's one time to act and dress totally differently if you want to...
posted by mlle valentine at 5:18 PM on October 26, 2010

  1. Some people don't come off as well when they're TRYING to come off well.
  2. Other people suffer from the Groucho-Marx wouldn't-belong-to-any-club-that-would-take-me-as-a-member syndrome: "If she's coming after me, there must be something wrong with her. No thanks."
We really, really aren't in a position to say, since we've never met you. But you might ask yourself if you're falling into one of those categories.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:25 PM on October 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think this is called Life.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:27 PM on October 26, 2010 [14 favorites]

I've personally experienced the same, and I am a male in my mid twenties.

What I decided was just to be me. I'm not (and never really have been) actively trying to find someone to date and develop a relationship with. I've also sworn off dating sites for the same reason. I don't think I need anyone to "complete" or "fulfill" me, I'm pretty happy with "me" all by myself.

I also don't want to date someone if I feel like they're more interested in: "the concept of dating" me, as opposed to: the concept of dating "me." I don't want to be the guy that someone just wants to date so as to not be single, or because all their girlfriends have boyfriends. I consider it a waste of time for both people.

That being said, I've had a few relationships before. They didn't work out, but that's life.

If all your friends are dating and/or you feel like you need to have a SO in order to be happy, I personally consider both those terrible reasons to try and establish a serious relationship.

Be you. Go do what you find interesting. Put yourself out there in terms of being social. Go join a salsa dancing class, find a sports club in your area, join a reading club. Do what you find interesting and fun. Odds are, you're going to have much better luck finding someone attractive in these instances, and, law of large numbers, one of these people (who happen to share common interests) might find you attractive as well, where neither of you were really looking in the first place.

This is my philosophy. I've also been single for the better part of my twenties, so take this as you will. =pp
posted by irishcoffee at 5:59 PM on October 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I inevitably fail when I actively pursue someone, probably in the act of it I come off as desperate. If you like a girl, perhaps work on being doubly-casual with her--maybe it will even out with your subconscious desire to overcompensate?
posted by schroedinger at 6:00 PM on October 26, 2010

I doubt that it's any weirdness that comes out. As other people have stated wisely, it's difficult to find a good match. "I'll know....when my love comes along" is an old Broadway tune, from "Guys and Dolls." Trust yourself, and trust time. You'll know. Go out, do all kinds of activities, meet all kinds of people. Some of the old cliches are true. Love comes often when and where we least expect it, so whenever you do go anywhere, even if it's just to get a loaf of bread, try to look your best. Smile, be approachable, speak with everyone. Try not to worry too much or over-analyze. True love is one of the most magical, and simplest, things in the world.
I met my husband of forty years, the father of our four children, at a barbecue in graduate school. There was between us, from the very first, a feeling that was a mixture of soaring exhilaration and solid comfort.
You'll know.
posted by ragtimepiano at 7:39 PM on October 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Romantic perfectionism. Google "Intimate Connections" by Dr. David Burns. the book explores all of that and gives tremendous advice. Do everything it says--it helped me tremendously.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:41 PM on October 26, 2010

I think you're probably not being honest enough with the women who chase you, and trying to be "too nice", which eventually only ends in tears anyway.

When pursuing women, in contrast, you're probably not paying enough attention to whether they're giving off any signals of reciprocal interest, so you're wasting your time barking up the wrong trees.

That's about it. Don't allow people to be led on when you're not really keen yourself, and don't pursue anybody without any signs of encouragement.

They're both flip sides of the same coin, really.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:04 PM on October 26, 2010

I think you are describing attraction, which is an ingredient of love. When I was younger, I thought that attraction IS love; and I spent a lot of time pursued it. Now, I learnt that life and relationship are much richer and complicated than that, and that there is no specific order which ingredients come together to make it work. Yes, attraction is important at the beginning of the relationship; it motivates us, an addictive rush. However, you should also be able to look beyond the initial attraction, or you will miss out on some great connections.

Attraction is usually a lack of information, created intentionally or unintentionally. If you want to understand it, read Robert Green's "The Art of Seduction". In this absence of information, the pursuer fill up the void with his projection of what the target is. Usually this is an idealized version of the target of affection. Unfortunately, the state of information deprivation cannot last as the relationship progress. This eventually lead to disillusionment.

I wouldn't worry in your case. Enjoy your life. You will mature from that in your own time. However, do be kind-hearted, to yourself and to those who are attracted to you. Act honorably and you won't have regrets.
posted by curiousZ at 8:41 PM on October 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

schroedinger is right in that actively pursuing someone tends to make you come off as desperate and women will automatically find you less attractive. Whilst you would have hoped the whole "treat them mean to keep them keen" attitude would have disproved itself after you left school, in actual fact, it's not that untrue.

Secondly (and without trying to sound harsh here), maybe you're chasing after women that are out of your league? Whilst I hate the whole concept, unfortunately women who are stunningly attractive tend to be chased by and date men who are equally as stunningly attractive. Given the pool of these stunningly attractive people to pick from, it's often hard for someone who look so-so to really stand out - even if you have a personality which knocks spots of everyone else.

(of course, there are always exceptions to the rule - however generally it's managed by men who are either famous or rich, so I'll let you draw your own conclusions)
posted by mr_silver at 1:33 AM on October 27, 2010

You don't say how old you are. I think everyone goes through a phase of chasing after people they stand no chance with or thinking the "grass is always greener" and so turning down offers they might receive. Or maybe you're doing it wrong, do you know any of these people well enough for them to give you an honest reason for why they said no?

It's all a learning process. One thing I learned was that I never managed to date or get into a relationship with someone I had first developed some kind of social friendship with, once "friended" I was tagged.
posted by epo at 5:10 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have a bad reputation as a dating partner?

Think about it very hard.

What do you tell your friends about your dating life?

I know someone who wanted to break up with an ex for MONTHS. She didn't know it, or she did know it, or whatever. They eventually broke up. The fact that he wanted to break up with her for so long, and then didn't, made him look really bad. Who wants to date someone who is going to string them along like that?

Certainly there were circumstances that we don't know about, he's not a bad guy, whatever, but things like this can really wreck your reputation (and your chances with friends-of-friends).
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:40 AM on October 27, 2010

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