Too much choice!
February 27, 2011 9:29 AM   Subscribe

How can I figure out which characteristics of a person are deal breakers vs. things that I can learn to live with?

After about a year and a half of singledom, I've met a few people in rapid succession. They've all made it clear that they're interested in me, but I'm for one reason or another not completely convinced that I feel the same. The problem is that I can't tell why I'm feeling this way and I hate the idea of leading them on when I'm not sure. I guess my questions are as follows:

- How long can I date someone without committing to them? How much does this change if I decide to sleep with them? (I haven't yet.)
- How do I discern what things I can live with vs. what things I can't? (Examples: I don't really like the way one guy kisses. I don't really like way the other one texts me too much.)
- When there's more than one person involved, how do I figure out which one I'd like to pursue something more concrete with, if either?
- I'm not even sure if I want to be in any sort of relationship right now. How do I figure out of my objections are to relationships in general or to relationships with these people?

I feel like I'm being paralyzed by choice and I have no idea where to go with it.
posted by youcancallmeal to Human Relations (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
"How long can I date someone without committing to them?"

As long as you want to, as long as you are absolutely clear and upfront about it. That doesn't change if you sleep with them. It's only obnoxious/bad manners when you start stringing people along. As long as you're clear that "I'm not ready to commit, I'm still trying things out, I'm not ready to be exclusive," then other people have the option to say, "Sorry, this isn't for me." I think it's a bit trickier if you sleep with them and you have to be careful to be very honest, but sleeping together is not a magical commitment ceremony. (Although it involves a lot more emotions and expectations, so be upfront, honest, and careful.)

As for question 3, you date them until you figure out which one you'd like to pursue something more concrete with, or until one of them says to you, "sorry, I'm not into it" or whatever. As to question 4, you date them casually for a while and see if you want to be in a relationship or not.

For #2, you date them for a while. :) In my experience the texting is more likely to be a temporary infatuation issue that will slow down or that you can successfully negotiate, while physical incompatibility is likely to be more difficult to solve. But physical incompatibility can be negotiated and over-texting-type-issues can just get MORE obnoxious or be signs of low self-esteem/need for control, so you find out by, you know, dating.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:43 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as how long you can date without committing to someone, I think that will vary based on what the other person is comfortable with. You do need to be upfront about the fact that things are not exclusive (ESPECIALLY if you're having sex with multiple people, and of course in that case you need to take every precaution to be sure you're not exposing anyone to unnecessary risk). But I would say several weeks of dating 2-3 different people simultaneously is not anything shocking, as long as you're honest.

For things you can live with versus dealbreakers, that's a bit tough. When I think "dealbreaker" I think immediate, visceral negative reaction. Like seeing someone kick a puppy, that's a dealbreaker. Texting too much, right at the beginning of a relationship? Annoying, yes, but that's the kind of behavior that could potentially be modified with some feedback from you and doesn't really hint at some horrible character flaw (at least, not on its own). I say give those things some time, and be forthright about what you like and don't like.
posted by Bebo at 9:44 AM on February 27, 2011


There are a lot of ways to be committed to a person. Right now, for instance, you have committed to dating these people until you decide you don't want to any more. So there's that.

"Don't worry" really is the best answer, but it's a difficult philosophy to follow. The thing about new people in your life is that if you've been single for a while, they're intruding on your more independent way of doing things, and that takes a while to get used to. New people come with their own set of joys, which also takes a while to get used to. So it could be that you are objecting to neither relationships in general NOR these people, but rather to the learning process of having others so very involved in your day-to-day life.
posted by aniola at 9:45 AM on February 27, 2011


- How long can I date someone without committing to them? How much does this change if I decide to sleep with them? (I haven't yet.)

That 100% depends on the you and the person you are dating.


- How do I discern what things I can live with vs. what things I can't? (Examples: I don't really like the way one guy kisses. I don't really like way the other one texts me too much.)

It is hard to tell sometimes. The texting I think is a solveable (ie. tell him you would be happier if you recieved fewer texts) but kissing... yeah, from my perspective that speaks more to lack of chemistry. No one I have been attracted to has been a meh kisser, but people I have been meh towards have been meh kissers....


- When there's more than one person involved, how do I figure out which one I'd like to pursue something more concrete with, if either?


There is no magical quick way to know. Basically it takes time, more dates, more conversations, getting to know both of them better. etc.



- I'm not even sure if I want to be in any sort of relationship right now. How do I figure out of my objections are to relationships in general or to relationships with these people?

Dude, I am so there. I know exactly what you mean. I had been going on a lot of dates late last year and I couldn't tell if it was the people I was going out with or just my not enjoying dating that was making them so unsuccessful (at least to me -- they all thought the dates went fabulously! Go figure.). The guys weren't gems, no question, but I was intensely disinterested in even giving them additional chances to win me over that I had to think that I was part of the problem. My choice has been to take a break from dating. I'm spending my time volunteering and expanding my gym routine and basically doing things that make me happy. Not regretting it either.
posted by gwenlister at 9:48 AM on February 27, 2011


For the deal breakers aspect of the question:

Deal breakers are things that cannot be changed or lived with. So texting too much is not a deal breaker in and of its self. Being a person you generally find annoying...deal breaker. Kissing poorly, not a deal breaker, it can be "fixed" with communication. Examples of obvious deal breakers; violence, abuse, emotional abuse, ect. These things might not ever change, so just living with it is not an option.

On a side note; magical first dates in the movies are fake, non existent. Everyone has flaws, its about finding someone you can love enough to get past them.
posted by Felex at 10:15 AM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


How do I figure out of my objections are to relationships in general or to relationships with these people?

Introspection.

Alternatively, try getting to know the particular people better, and if you are not interested in continuing to date any of them you could choose to date someone else or no one at all until you either abstractly decide you want to go on a date again, or decide that you have met someone who you are inspired to go on a date with.

It seems like you are puzzled that you are not "convinced" you are interested in anyone you are currently dating. I think that might be because you aren't interested in them -- you don't have to be into them just because they are into you, it's perfectly fine to decide not to go on another date with someone without having a specific reason.

For me, I think I would have a hard time convincing myself to be attracted to someone that I did not like kissing. I've tried that one and only liked kissing them less. But for you? Maybe kissing isn't very important to you (perhaps you really value a nice ear nuzzle, or backrub, or something), or maybe you like something else about the person enough that it becomes a non-issue. You'll have to ask yourself how important it is to you, and arrive at an answer to that via experimentation or introspection.

On the texting, you might try talking about what you would like on that with the other person, and see what they do if they are aware of how often you would like to be texted.
posted by yohko at 10:22 AM on February 27, 2011


You haven't said anything about friendship.

Do you LIKE these guys? Do you have fun hanging out with them? Do you have great conversations with them? Do you want to call them when something good or bad happens to you, so that you can share it with them? Do you want to help them when they're in trouble? Do you want to buy them presents and do nice things for them?

None of those things is necessarily important in a casual affair or a fling, but, to me, they're all vital when it comes to long-term relationships.

If I don't feel like someone is a dear, dear friend, then, personally, I'm not ready to seriously date that person. If I do feel that way, then things like "too much texting" and "not a great kisser" are usually pretty minor issues that can be talked and worked through.
posted by grumblebee at 10:33 AM on February 27, 2011 [8 favorites]


I think the texting thing is actually a perfect opportunity to see whether this guy is flexible or not. Tell him in a nice way that you wish he wouldn't text so often, and see how he reacts. If his reaction is along the lines of "I'm sorry! I was just excited. I'll try to reel it in" and then he actually DOES reel it in, that's a good sign. If he gets really offended, or ignores your request and continues to text you all the time, that's the real red flag. You could probably do this with the bad kisser too (I mean, don't tell him it's BAD, but you can try to tell/ show him what you like and see how well he picks up on it.) It's important for you to be communicating with these guys, but also pay attention to what they do with the information once they have it. Reacting badly to reasonable requests is the biggest red flag ever.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 10:34 AM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just because you have three people to choose from right now doesn't mean any of them is a good choice -- no matter HOW long you've been single.
posted by hermitosis at 10:47 AM on February 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


eal breakers are things that cannot be changed or lived with. So texting too much is not a deal breaker in and of its self. Being a person you generally find annoying...deal breaker. Kissing poorly, not a deal breaker, it can be "fixed" with communication. Examples of obvious deal breakers; violence, abuse, emotional abuse, ect. These things might not ever change, so just living with it is not an option.

Yes, this, 100%. I'd add that one of the biggest dealbreakers of them all is whether or not to have a child. It's not fair to ask someone to never have children, and it's equally not fair to saddle someone with a child they don't really want yet legally and socially MUST be responsible for.

Everyone has flaws, and no-one is perfectly compatible with the other. Putting up with annoyances like texting too much or hogging the covers or thinking fart jokes are funny is part of having a relationship. Putting up with things that abuse you or just drain your soul and leaving you feel resentful is not something one should expect to do.

Some things also are deal-breakers with some people and not others. I think we all have our personal, quirky deal-breakers. An example: for me, hating cats or being severely allergic is a deal-breaker. I can't imagine a feline-free life because I love cats so much and always want to have at least one in my life; and to me, giving up a pet is a last resort.

OTOH someone else might not like cats either, or may be equally allergic, so the cat thing is not a deal-breaker because cats don't matter so much to them.

Another deal-breaker that is not a deal-breaker for everyone: One partner has a career, for instance in academia, which requires arbitrary moves to San Francisco or Fargo or wherever they can get a job; and their career depends on being able to do this. The other partner has a career they are equally devoted to, but is incompatible with moving for Partner A's career. Someone has to make the choice to give up their career dreams. Neither wants to. Neither morally is obligated to. This might be a dealbreaker in that circumstance. With another partner who has a flexible career or to whom career doesn't matter as much, might accommodate that move easily. It won't be a sacrifice for them.

My point being that you want to know what matters to YOU so much that it would kill your soul to give them up. Want a child? Want to achieve in a picky career? Want to have a cat or live in a place with nice weather and yes, you could give that up, but you'd be oh, so resentful and unhappy and start to feel your partner is an albatross? Those are personal deal-breakers. It helps a lot not to have a huge list of deal-breakers. But if you just have one or two chances are you won't have a problem avoiding those deal-breakers.

Finally - deal-breakers need to be known sooner, rather than later. As in, around the time you commit to one person, not after you're engaged. It's kinder, easier, and better karma to be honest and upfront in the beginning rather than stick your head in the sand and say, "I'll change his/her mind after we're married" or "I can live without this, honest!" Because you won't change the other person, and you might not be able to live without this.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:21 AM on February 27, 2011


Texting is easier to fix than kissing. Just say, "Dude, what's with all the texts?"
posted by rhizome at 12:39 PM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


They've all made it clear that they're interested in me, but I'm for one reason or another not completely convinced that I feel the same.

You don't feel the same. You'd know.

See also: hermitosis's wisdom above.
posted by rokusan at 1:03 PM on February 27, 2011


It seems to me that you are making this much too complicated for yourself. At this point, it doesn't really matter if something is a deal-breaker or just an irritant - you don't even know if you will want to have a "deal" with any of these people yet. It doesn't matter if you don't want to commit to exclusivity (as long as you are clear and open about this) or which of them you like best or how you feel about relationships in general. All of these questions are too general - what you need to focus on is the specifics. Specifically, would you rather go out on a date with person X, or do whatever else you would do that evening instead? Repeat this question to yourself regarding each of these suitors each time you decide whether to make plans with one of them. If you have more fun out with them than on your own or with whatever other friends are available, plan the date. If not, that is a sign you should not date that person anymore.

I admit that I struggled with similar uncertainties when I started dating again after a long relationship, and it all became much clearer after I started asking myself, "Would I rather be out with this guy or home by myself watching TV?" I'm not a person who likes TV all that much, so the bar wasn't set too high, but a lot of men still didn't pass. The "right" person (or persons) to date is the one who you actually, in the concrete moment, want to spend your time with. Dating can be stressful even when things are on the right track, but if you're not having fun, wait for someone better to come along.
posted by unsub at 1:10 PM on February 27, 2011


Maybe a relatively small detail, but kissing technique can be addressed and improved or changed to better suit your preferences.

I think most people, if they want to keep kissing the person, would be open to suggestions (with the right words, tone, to be sure). If they're not, they're caught up in their egos... datsa big sign.
posted by ambient2 at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2011


Obviously, both of these issues are fixable. The real question is do you actually like either of these guys enough to be willing to fix them? You sound painfully ambivalent about both of them.

Actually, I'll take some of that back. Bad kisser would probably be a deal breaker for me and would be a sign of sexual incompatibility. However, I might be taking a pretty extreme view on that front.
posted by whoaali at 2:20 PM on February 27, 2011


Seems like right now dating should be a bonus, an addition to your life, not a requirement.

Do you want to have kids? That's the only thing that should push you along. It's generally easier to get pregnant the earlier you try. Fertility treatment is often unpleasant and usually expensive. It's also easier financially--and in other ways--to raise a child with a good, willing partner.

If that's not a worry for you right now, then why date people who aren't fun? Go for fun. If none of these guys are fun, then fuck 'em (not literally).
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:06 PM on February 27, 2011


Bad kissing is a dealbreaker. Unless you don't like kissing, or something.
posted by Sara C. at 10:04 PM on February 27, 2011


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