This is worse than finding a needle in a haystack.
February 20, 2011 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Did you ever meet two potential Significant Others with whom you felt an equal level of physical attraction, shared interests & common values over the course of several dates? How did you end up deciding which one was the Right One? How many dates did it take? What questions did you ask yourself? Did your thought process center mostly on emotions or practical concerns, and how did either approach (or both) help you choose your partner?

As a 29 year-old nerdy female, lifelong shy introvert, I have always had poor luck with men - until now. I recently met two guys online and have been on roughly 4-5 dates with each. The level of chemistry, physical attraction, shared interests, and common values is roughly equal with both guys. It has been about a month now, and I'm bone-tired of splitting my weekends between both. I want to pick one, but my lack of relationship experience does not give me a lot to go on, in terms of questions I feel I should be asking myself about both guys. I'm so overwhelmed, I don't know where to begin.

Please feel free to mefi mail me, if you would prefer your response remain anonymous. Thank you in advance.
posted by invisible ink to Human Relations (44 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
In case you haven't thought about these things:

--Readiness and enthusiasm for marriage (or an equivalent practical commitment)
--Work ethic
--Suitability for parenting (not just willingness)
--Social connectedness
--Family's ability and willingness to support the relationship


I'd pick someone who had lots of friends over someone with fewer friends; someone who had a close healthy relationship with family over someone who had a strained or distant relationship with family; someone who takes work seriously over someone who calls in sick for a long weekend; someone who is empathetic and positive about children over someone who is neutral or finds them spoiled/obnoxious...

That's me though and I'm talking about someone you're wanting to eventually marry. Sure, you're not there yet, but why not look at suitability from the very beginning?
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:20 PM on February 20, 2011 [11 favorites]


Questions you might ask yourself/them to help differentiate:
* gut feeling about who would be more likely to be supportive during tough times?
* are either friends with their exes (usually a good sign)?
* # of female friends (usually a good sign)?

Or you could try and get them to do the work. MAybe tell both you are really attracted to/are even starting to care about them, but for the first time in your life have an embarrassing amount of attention. Then see if either is willing to go after you more.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 12:22 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I recognize that this comment may not be all that helpful, but a friend of mine always reminds me, when I'm agonizing about a difficult decision, that the more difficult it is to decide, the less important the decision is. That is, it's only hard because both options are roughly equally good (or bad), so either way, I'm in good shape.

Thinking that can help me climb down off the ledge of "OMG THIS DECISION IS A DISASTER!"

Good luck!
posted by rosa at 12:26 PM on February 20, 2011 [20 favorites]


Don't choose the one for whom you feel the most warmth/attraction. Warmth/attraction cools off a bit in time, anyway.

Choose the person who's the better potential roommate.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:28 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Long-term compatibility seems to me to be based on sex (frequency and type you both prefer), money (debt issues, whether one of you has more money coming in than the other, savers vs spenders) and future/family planning issues (do you want to get married, when, kids or no kids). These questions seems to come up naturally in the first several months of a relationship if both partners are interested in something long term. A month in is a little soon to be asking some of this stuff in my opinion, but it really depends on the relationship.

In terms of my own experience, yes, I have found myself dating two guys at once and having difficulty choosing between them. I dithered for too long, and when I eventually chose one, we only dated for about a month before I realized the reason it was so hard to choose was because I wasn't especially interested in either of them. Beware the false dichotomy: it's possible the right answer is to choose neither of these guys, so evaluate both of them on their own merits, as opposed to compared to each other.
posted by Grafix at 12:29 PM on February 20, 2011 [8 favorites]


Which one smells better? Serious. Lean in and get a good whiff. Pheromones!
posted by Nixy at 12:31 PM on February 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


This has never happened to me. But I think I'd ask myself, if I had to go away for a month or two, which one would I miss more? If I knew one of them was about to tell me he met someone else and couldn't see me anymore because he was going to be exclusive with her, which would I prefer that to be?
posted by DestinationUnknown at 12:42 PM on February 20, 2011


Does their personality complement yours? For example, you call yourself "shy" - now if that means you tend to spend less time around people than is ideal for you, and you struggle to make friends, then it might help to be with someone who's a little more outgoing and who's able to do a little more of the work in sustaining friendships. If there's something that's not a strength for you then it's great to have a partner who's better in that area than you are.

Previous history. If they've had a disastrous sounding romantic history or they have exes that they won't speak to, that doesn't speak well to the future success of your relationship with them.

Housekeeping habits. Folks who know how to keep their place clean and tidy are much easier to live with.

Imagine yourself at 70, sitting in matching rocking chairs with each of these guys. What does that feel like?
posted by emilyw at 12:47 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


gut feeling, continued:

--who makes you physically more relaxed.
--sincerity check; its in the tiniest things (a date once lied at a movie ticket counter that she had pre-ordered, in order to get into an over-full hall - together with me, so it was a lie in my favor, sorta. Dealbreaker for me nevertheless).
--enthusiasm for things central in your life (like certain hobbies, food, music)
--tolerance for your one-person hobbies
--has no own hobbies that irritate the *beep* out of you.
--treats waiters in restaurants, etc. nicely.

Give it time.
posted by Namlit at 12:50 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


You are a puzzle piece. The trick is finding the compatible puzzle piece, not another piece that is your same shape.

It's a natural first step to look for somebody who is similar to you in important ways. Surprisingly, this is the easy step. Ultimately, successful relationships are those where the people compliment each others strengths and bolster their weaknesses. As unromantic as it may sound, think of it like you are building a team. Because you are. Somebody to be good where you are bad. Strong where you are weak. And so on.

When considering a partner, doubling up on the good parts of you is fine. But doubling up on your weaknesses is a recipe for trouble. Personally, I don't need another me.
posted by nickjadlowe at 12:51 PM on February 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


One thing I'll say is that choosing someone based on how they look on paper often backfires. I don't know if I'd go with something like who your family would approve of more, who would make the better parent, or stuff like "work ethic" or "social connections". I've met plenty of people who look like Ms/Mr Right in terms of all that stuff, but then a few months later, surprise! Not so great after all!

I like the suggestions of "who'd make the better roommate"*, "which one would you be more likely to turn to in a tough situation", and the like. DestinationUnknown's advice is also very good.

*My "totally perfect for me in every way" ex faltered here. I just kept envisioning us moving in together and me turning into a parent rather than a lover.
posted by Sara C. at 12:53 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


My hunch is if you can't decide between two guys, you are still looking for a good match in bachelor #3.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:58 PM on February 20, 2011 [13 favorites]


Look closely. Have there been ANY red flags whatsoever? No matter how small or how easily excused? I bet there's been at least one. Something just not feel right? Think about it.

Another option, which one do your friends like more?
posted by whoaali at 12:58 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well, this is how I pick restaurants, so maybe it will work. First off, you need to assign them letters. Call one of them person A and the other one person B. Doesn't matter which is which, but be sure to pick one for each. Ok, now I'm going to tell you what to do, and, for this to work, you have to promise to follow my advice, and not to see the other person ever again. Ready? Ok, here goes -I think you should date person B and get rid of person A.

Ok, how did you feel when you read that? Sad? Disappointed? Happy? Not when you think about it, but your immediate, bodily reaction. Because it's unlikely that you literally like them both 100% equally, so this is a way of finding out which one you actually prefer.

Ultimately, however, you're just going to have to pick one with the understanding that they could both be right for you, but you can't stay with both of them (well, you can, potentially, but that's a different question).
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:59 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, and this is totally something out of a romantic comedy, but very early in any proto-relationship, I have two tests.

The first is for me. I imagine our wedding. Not in an "I actually want to marry you" sort of way, but, like, as a common expression of each member of a couple's personality. For some reason that mental exercise enables me to immediately see whether I would want to pursue something serious/long term. Usually within a minute or two of thinking about it.

The second is for my partner. I suggest a date to a museum. If they are in any way reluctant, mocking, disinterested, etc, that's an automatic fail. If we go and they don't behave themselves (wanting to leave after 20 minutes, disparaging the art), fail. If they make especially inane comments showing that they are obviously a philistine, fail. I mean, they don't need to have an MA in art history or anything, but hearing the words, "Oh, come on, a third grader could do that!" come out of someone's mouth immediately makes them seem unattractive. I won't break up with someone over this test, obviously, but it's an easy way to see them as they really are rather than on their best behavior. I do not know why museums bring this out in people. Even "nerdy" people will out themselves as idiots on a museum date.
posted by Sara C. at 1:01 PM on February 20, 2011 [22 favorites]


Who are these guys splitting their weekends with? Pick the one who likes you the most, right?
posted by anniecat at 1:17 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also, which one is the most ready for marriage/commitment? Don't pick the one that's lukewarm on commitment and marriage.
posted by anniecat at 1:18 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm going to vote for not deciding right now. Going out twice every weekend can be taxing--maybe catch one on a Wednesday for dinner, the other on a Saturday night, switch it off the next week, and see what happens?

If nothing else, it will kind of show you which one is more open to getting together on a weeknight (which usually means an earlier night, less drinking, reduced expectations for sex, especially in the early stages, etc.). The guy who is more willing to do the weeknight get-together is probably better relationship material.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:25 PM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


"I'd pick someone who had lots of friends over someone with fewer friends; someone who had a close healthy relationship with family over someone who had a strained or distant relationship with family; someone who takes work seriously over someone who calls in sick for a long weekend; someone who is empathetic and positive about children over someone who is neutral or finds them spoiled/obnoxious..."

But who's the more decent human being? Who has more sensitivity and patience? Who cares about you more? Who has a more thoughtful, mindful outlook on life? Who treats the waiters better?
posted by aquafortis at 1:36 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm going to vote for not deciding right now. Going out twice every weekend can be taxing--maybe catch one on a Wednesday for dinner, the other on a Saturday night, switch it off the next week, and see what happens?

I revise my answer. Go with what thinkingwoman said. You don't have enough data on either guy yet. No one's had a chance to show his dark side.
posted by anniecat at 1:43 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's only been 4-5 dates each! Do you really have to decide nownownow? Shoot, you don't know enough about either guy yet to pick a side. No wonder you can't pick yet really.

Just wondering: do they both know you aren't exclusive with either right now? Is that a problem for anyone?

Honestly, I'd keep on dating both (see only one guy per weekend and do every other weekend with the other if you must, and try the whole weekday date thing someone mentioned), because one way or another, one (or both!) guy will weed himself out and you'll find out some reason not to date him, or he'll lose interest, or something like that. Don't worry about deciding yet. I'd hate to see you pick one based on "I have to pick now" and then end up picking the wrong one because he's not quite as compatible as you thought, but you needed more time to find that out for yourself.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:52 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Who said you have to choose just one?
posted by Jairus at 1:58 PM on February 20, 2011 [6 favorites]


If they are roughly equivalent, the choice is irrelevant. (My gift for stating the obvious with maximum jerkness is in full flower!)

Choosing after 5 dates (which charitably might mean a total of 40 hours you have spent with each of them) is making a potential life decision based on a microscopic sample size. Since you are nerdy, you'd probably appreciate the analogy of deciding if you like a cake by tasting a crumb. Or buying a car by driving by a car lot full of used vehicles, all clean and sparkling and whose innards you know nothing of.

There isn't a Mr. Right. If you are a normal human, you'll make a bad decision, based on the criteria present in the limerance stage, and in the good old USA, buy a ticket in a lottery that loses 50% of the time. Your choosing how they are NOW, with the goal of getting someone who will be a certain way in the future. Those states are not perfectly correlated.

Also, at this stage, they aren't even behaving as themselves... they are doing marketing, as are you. You need conflict, testing, stress to evaluate strength and humanity. Time will present enough opportunities to select between these limited choices and it may also present some more choices.

Date them some more.... maybe a lot more. Revel in your ability to do so. If one scoots, the choice will suddenly make itself, no?

That said... the non-drinker, the emotionally adult, considerate, wisest of the two, the best problem solver, the most supportive, least controlling, least superstitious, kindest all beat the bluest eyes/tall/richest/flashiest. Of course, the latter usually gets the nod, but it needs to be said. Character counts. If you are lucky enough to get a life-long mate, the character will improve, while the package gets wrinkled, gray weak and saggy, just like you will. If it starts off at a higher level, it will be that much better in a decade or two.

Congratulations, incidentally. It's apparent that you will have no trouble sampling the waters. You have two suitors. You'll have many more. Don't rush! 29 is young.
posted by FauxScot at 1:58 PM on February 20, 2011 [9 favorites]


arghh.... "your" = "you're"
posted by FauxScot at 1:59 PM on February 20, 2011


Which one makes you laugh more?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:37 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


"But who's the more decent human being? Who has more sensitivity and patience? Who cares about you more? Who has a more thoughtful, mindful outlook on life? Who treats the waiters better?"

None of these are mutually exclusive from the qualities that I mentioned. Sensitive, patient people have compassion for children. Thoughtful, intelligent people take work seriously because life becomes very difficult very quickly when you have no income, and because people depend on them to do their jobs, be they clients, customers, coworkers.

There is this persistent American romantic idea that practical things don't matter--or are inconsistent with--the ineffable personal characteristics that make someone a good partner. It's silly. It becomes even more silly when you admit that a marriage or long-term financial relationship, especially one with children, can fuck your entire life up. If you get tethered to someone immature, irresponsible, bad with kids, or unpleasant to the world at large your life will be very difficult, mindful though they may be.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:44 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


how many weekends are you splitting with only 4-5 dates down? you don't know either of them enough yet and if you aren't feeling one over the other, you really don't need to decide right now.
posted by violetk at 2:48 PM on February 20, 2011


This was a very similar question, so you might find some of the 42 answers there useful.

(Interesting to see the different reaction to that post vs. this one.)
posted by John Cohen at 2:57 PM on February 20, 2011


Do you need to decide now? If not, give it a bit more time.

But if you do need to decide (and at some point you will need to decide), go with your gut. I've been there, and ultimately it came down to which one I felt I couldn't give up. One way to establish this is to try the old coin trick - assign both a side and flip the coin. Base your decision on your reaction when you see the coin -relief? disappointment?.

But when you do decide, don't second-guess yourself. There's no guarantee at this point that either one is right, or that either one is wrong, and you'll drive yourself crazy wondering what could have been.

BTW - I am happily married to my choice. Thinking about it, I imagine it's quite possible that I would still be happily married if I had chosen the other. But the decision I made (even though technically the less logical of the two) just felt right.
posted by scrute at 3:27 PM on February 20, 2011


Seconding roomthreseventeen. Years ago when I was single I met a bunch of guys online, and was juggling multiple dates over every weekend. That was great for my self-esteem and exhausting at the same time, so I totally understand where you are coming from. *Then* I met the guy who grabbed my attention in a way none of the others had. After two or three dates I stopped going out with anyone else, not because of any serious commitment, but because I wanted to see where things might lead and frankly all the others suddenly looked a lot less interesting. Happy ending: we've been together now for eight years.

Your social card isn't going to expire when you turn 30 (really!) so there's no hurry. It may well be that you have found two great guys- but just because a guy is great doesn't necessarily mean he's the right one for you.

If it's not clear after a month, I'd suggest that the answer isn't A or B, but "neither."
posted by ambrosia at 3:37 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I LOVE some of these answers!

- Pick who treats the waitstaff better

Oh, yes. Absolutely!!

- Pick who has a more positive attitude

Triple Yes!

- If you can't pick one, you may still be looking for a good match in bachelor #3

Ha!

Also, I'll caution against someone with lots of friends or a super close relationship with their family. Folks like this sometimes spread themselves too thin and you won't become a priority. Decent relationships with others is a plus, but be discerning on this.

I agree looking for red flags and adding them up is a good determiner that can save you heartache and time. The right guy makes you feel good and relaxed, at your best when you're with them. The guy who makes you feel excited but insecure = wrong for you.
posted by jbenben at 3:51 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Do they know about each other? I was in a similar situation many years ago, and the man who handled the situation most gracefully was the one I ended up with (and married). I forget how it came up, but we somehow ended up talking about whether or not my multi-dating bothered him, and he said that he had no right to come into my life and tell me what to do and he just appreciated the time we spent together. Definitely gave me pause to think, and made it clear who the better choice was.
posted by Go Banana at 3:59 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


The big thing for me was always who provided me with the most intellectual stimulation.

However, I have learned the hard way that I'd choose someone who would voluntarily come with me to the hospital if I got a phone call that a family member was sick and I needed to be there. I now have a joke that I like a man who "does good waiting room."
posted by analog at 5:06 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Give each one of them a whole weekend. Go on a trip. She how the relationships work outside the narrow parameters you've experienced them in. Also, with which one do you have better sex?
posted by spaltavian at 5:19 PM on February 20, 2011


There is this persistent American romantic idea that practical things don't matter--or are inconsistent with--the ineffable personal characteristics that make someone a good partner. It's silly. It becomes even more silly when you admit that a marriage or long-term financial relationship, especially one with children, can fuck your entire life up. If you get tethered to someone immature, irresponsible, bad with kids, or unpleasant to the world at large your life will be very difficult, mindful though they may be.

Except of course that lots of people out there have all their ducks in a row "practical stuff" wise. In my experience, finding someone with a decent job who isn't drowning in debt due to bad financial decisions and who sees eye to eye with me on stuff like how to treat children and waitstaff is the easy part. It's the sort of je ne sais quoi OP is concerned with that is more difficult to pin down. Who do you feel comfortable with? Do you have good chemistry? Is the sex good? That's the hard stuff.

Besides which, "compatible ideas about childrearing" is all well and good, but if you never get to the point where that sort of thing is on the table, then who cares? You have to be compatible in a lot of other ways before that stuff would ever be a concern.
posted by Sara C. at 5:38 PM on February 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is often more important to make a good choice than to make the optimal choice.
posted by pmb at 5:48 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think time will tell in this, and you should not rush making a choice impulsively.

What are your future goals? Career, marriage, children or no children, etc. Who best matches up with your vision of future you?

My own "test" though, would be: if you were in a car accident or had been mugged or something just awful had happened, who would you call? Is it either of these men?

Other little things I have learned to take seriously:

How does each of them treat their Moms? Kids? Servers?
How willing are they to compromise?
How decisive are they?
Do they admit when they've made a mistake or stubbornly persist if a course goes wrong?
Do they shut down or go silent when they are emotional, or when YOU are emotional?
Do they encourage you, belittle you, one-up you?
Have they gone beyond black/white thinking to actually empathize with different perspectives?
posted by misha at 6:06 PM on February 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Embrace the power of "and"! Date both :)

And if you do, make sure they are both aware that you are dating someone else. You don't have to phrase it so it sounds like they are in a competition for you. Explain they both bring something unique and positive to your life.
posted by izoralee at 8:29 PM on February 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a fortunate problem to have.

I'm with the person above who said go with the one that makes you laugh the most, but failing that, I'd go with whomever you can learn the most from, whether it's grand character traits or just how to change your oil.

And failing all of the above, cajole both of them to cook dinner for you, and then make your decision.
posted by mostly vowels at 9:24 PM on February 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


In more relationships than I can count, independent of age(s), gender(s), being comfortable around the other person wins the bingo.

Much to be said for something my aunt once said: The other person should like you for the things you like about yourself (which I think sorta ties into the first thought).
posted by ambient2 at 12:31 AM on February 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Which one can you comfortably do the most absolutely boring and mundane things with? Going out to buy new socks, picking up delayed luggage at the airport, watching the news...you get the picture.

That's the criteria I used 8 years ago and we're still going strong. :-)
posted by arishaun at 1:22 AM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


don't forget askers vs. guessers. Which do you work best with? Are they both one or the other?
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 5:19 PM on February 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you are at a point with both of them where this would be appropriate, how about a brief weekend trip? Preferably one where you are both on a train or in a car for an extended period of time.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 5:20 PM on February 21, 2011


I hope it's clear that I'm talking about alternating trips and not one big trip with both people plus you. That might be awkward.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 5:22 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


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