Dating when 30 is like being 12 all over again. Seriously.
July 6, 2011 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Need advice before I accidentally sabotage this awesome new potential relationship.

I'm a 30 year old female who HAD been dating a 35 year old guy for about 8 months when we broke up in March. That breakup was horrible because he essentially out of the blue up and told me that he could never see himself falling in love with me because he's afraid of committment. This was completely out of nowhere - we had even just returned from a really romantic, incredible vacation together. The relationship had been progressing too - we had met the families, friends, traveled and I was falling in love. Needless to say, I was totally devastated. However, I got over it, got through it, took a little time off and have recently started putting myself out there again in the past month because I do feel ready for dating. I started doing some online dating with no real prospects, but that's ok. I know these things take time, so I'm just trying to keep relaxed about it and enjoy the summer and being single while I can.

Anyway, about three weeks ago I managed to meet this 33 year old guy while attending a random sporting event. We ended up hanging out at the event together (by accident really) and had a great time. We exchanged info and we ended up going out for dinner a week later. A week after that we had dinner again. He's awesome and I can't find a single thing wrong with him (nor am I looking, but just noting this, in fact, it's pretty amazing). I've been over to his place and while he hasn't seen my place, we have very similar living styles and habits. The other evening he invited me out to grab drinks with a few of his friends and when I got there, I realized that it was kind of a double-date, so that was kind of awesome as well (he hasn't met any of my friends yet). So let's see...that would be three dates plus the time we hung out when we first met...we had sex for the first time together after the recent double date and that was pretty incredible as well (thank goodness). We have plans for later this week too; a fun activity together on Thursday and then he's coming with me to my friend's party on Friday (and will probably end up seeing my place as well).

Anyway! All of this sounds wonderful and like it's progressing well, I know, and that's the good part and I'm so excited about it. But here is where I could use some advice:

1.) HOW do I not lose my shit about all of this right now from excitement?! I'm pretty sure he's feeling the same because whenever I email or text him, his response is usually immediate and vice versa. He's responsive and seems to genuinely be interested in me. He's all touchy feely to the level that I like when we're together, and in public. I'm so freakin' excited about all of this I just want to explode and it's hard not to feel like I'm going batshitinsane, or worrying that I'm totally reading too much into everything. Yes, I've been exercising and doing other things and I'm now tired and the house is spotless. What else can I do?! Halp!

2.) Part of me is feeling anxious that he's going to end up doing that whole "You're a great girl but I just am not ready for a relationship right now" dance out of the blue, all of a sudden. I think this fear stems from my prior relationship and from prior random dates I had been on where it felt like things were going somewhere and then rejection slapped me in the face. I know that being nervous about this sounds a little ridiculous because right now is a totally different guy, a totally different situation, and NewAwesomeGuy doesn't have the committment hangups that BoringCowardEx had. How can I keep reminding myself of this when I start getting scared?

3.) I know it's still early, but when I know what I want, I know what I want, and I really want to be exclusive with this guy. I want this to be A.THING. I'm ready to define the relationship. When is a good time to bring this up? I was thinking about waiting to see how things are after our two fun-filled evenings later this week and if things still seem to be awesome (which would bring the tally to five dates not including the time we met, plus sex) and casually mention that although I had been online dating, that I'm going to take down my profile because I really am not interested in seeing anyone else. Is this dumb? Is this too soon?

4.) Any guy perspectives on any of this would be really helpful too.

Thanks HiveMind!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
...but when I know what I want, I know what I want, and I really want to be exclusive with this guy.

Your idea to see how the other two dates go this week and then say something if they go well is a good one. No sense waiting around or keeping your feelings secret or hidden. You're doing exactly what one should in a relationship: Ask or say what you want/need.

Just have an open mind about him not being in quite the same place as you and be prepared for the pain of that. But yeah, put it on the table if that's what you want.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

My gut feeling is that trying to "define the relationship" this soon is....a little soon. I totally understand why you want to -- because you got the rug pulled out from under you by the last guy (who was a dicksmack for doing that, if you want my opinion) -- but it's still a little soon. I'd wait a couple months at least.

In terms of "how to manage the jitters"...the very fact that you're talking about "ooh, I'm jittery!" like this with other people tends to help. If you slip up and act weird around the New Guy and you realize it was because you're having a flashback from the old guy...just apologize for that. That's what I did when my last boyfriend inadvertently triggered me and I did something weird -- we both took a day or so to cool off, and I took that time to think "wait, why did I react that way...oh, right, because this other boyfriend did this in that situation." And then I went back to my then current boyfriend and said that "look, this other guy did XYZ to me, and so when you did ABC it reminded me of XYZ and it was a kneejerk thing, and I just need to work on reminding myself that you are not him, and sorry." And things were cool again.

And yeah, you're feeling like he's going to drop that shoe on you entirely because the last guy did it. Just keep reminding yourself "New guy is not old guy, they're two different people." And that will pass in time.

good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:32 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sex means you need to talk about exclusivity anyway (not that the exclusivity is automatic, but if y'all were sleeping with other people that needs to be discussed). And beyond that, I figure as long as you have done a head-check to make sure this is healthy enthusiasm, which it sounds like it is, you might as well say what you feel.

I don't know, maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I always believed you took down the profile once you had sex and continued to see each other.

If how you feel isn't okay with him, why not find out now instead of after getting deeply enmeshed? The previous guy...he broke up with you. He didn't want a commitment with you, for whatever reason, you'll never know. But that's what a break-up is, it's not wanting to be with the other person, and it's going to happen to you in every relationship you have - right up until it doesn't. You might eventually break up with this guy. You might not. That's a dumb reason not to go for it.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:33 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't have any advice on 1 and 2. On 3, the sooner the better. I mean, you're having fun with this guy and don't want to scare him off. I get that. But why waste time? As you say, you know what you want. Tell him what you've told us. If he's on board, great. If not, you both can move on before you get more emotionally invested.
posted by adamrice at 7:35 AM on July 6, 2011

When you are feeling jazzed with the new relationship energy, sit in the shower and repeat to yourself: "I am not crazy. It is awesome he is awesome and thinks I'm awesome too. I can handle this." Take a deep breath, finish getting ready for your date, your day, whatevs, and be yourself.

Not your crazy self.

posted by whimsicalnymph at 7:40 AM on July 6, 2011

Okay, a guy perspective. First, congrats! It sounds like you have a great thing going with this guy. You're infatuated, and it sounds like he is, too. This is probably the most important thing to remember when you're having doubts: you're happy!

Guys are not all the same, despite all the stereotypes. Some are terrified of commitment. Some are clingy and needy to a point of desperation. Many are somewhere in between. The same is true with women; it's just that the average seems to skew toward one end for men and the other for women. Nothing you've said here gives any indication that this guy is a commitment-phobe. He's going out of his way to introduce you to his friends, he's not shying away from frequent texting, etc. It sounds like he wants to be your boyfriend. Spend all that energy you have (a natural effect of infatuation) thinking about how great things are and what you're going to do together next, not about what could go wrong.

As for defining the relationship, my best advice is to stop trying to plan when and how to bring it up. These things have a way of developing naturally. Maybe he'll notice that you took down your dating profile and say something about it. Maybe you'll make some off-handed comment about the future and he'll either embrace it or express concern about you getting ahead of yourself. Worst case, you'll learn that he's gone out with someone else, and you can use that as an entry point for the conversation. If things are going on for months and you have reason to believe that he's not treating the relationship as seriously as you are, by all means force the conversation. At this point, though, you risk sabotaging the great time you're having by making it about the future instead of the present.
posted by maxim0512 at 7:49 AM on July 6, 2011

The surefire way to bungle this is to drag unresolved feelings from the old relationship into this one. And no matter how excited you may be, and no matter how well-founded that excitement may be, proposing exclusivity after two dates is moving REALLY FAST. Your rush to get this part of it over with seems to be coming from within yourself -- it can't be in reaction to this new guy, because you really barely know him.

If someone tried to initiate exclusivity with me after just meeting a handful of times, I would be wary -- not based on my own fear of commitment, but out of concern that this person may not be particularly discriminating, or may be motivated by baggage that has nothing to do with what's actually happening between us.

I know that turning 30 is a sort of complicated time in people's lives, did you ever consider that your age might be playing a role in this "OMG COMMIT TO ME NOW PLZ" phase you are going through?
posted by hermitosis at 7:50 AM on July 6, 2011 [12 favorites]

Part of me is feeling anxious that he's going to end up doing that whole "You're a great girl but I just am not ready for a relationship right now" dance out of the blue, all of a sudden.

There isn't a really good way to mitigate against this. What people say and promise and what they do are often two different things; time goes by and things change. A zillion people a year promise "till death us do part" and half of them end up divorced.

Obviously, you do not want to make New Guy carry the tab for Old Guy. All you can do is remind yourself to give this relationship the best possible chance by taking it on its own merits. All love is risk; it's part of the ride!

I personally would not have the exclusivity talk until after a few more dates and, if sex is on the table, sex. However, two things: if commitment is very important to you right now, you should not be shagging someone who had not already made their dating status in that respect very clear. In other words, if you want committed relationships do not sleep with people who do not unless your OK with walking away, no hard feelings, if it becomes clear the other party is not on the same page.

Personally, I would give it some more time and then state what you are doing rather than asking him to do something. "I had been online dating, but I'm going to take down my profile because I really am not interested in seeing anyone else right now" seems like a fine approach.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:10 AM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

HOW do I not lose my shit about all of this right now from excitement?!

Just fucking enjoy it! Seriously, this is like someone complaining that they have too much money.

As far as it being too soon to pin him down suggest exclusivity, I'd wait another week and feel him out. But be a little direct. "Hey, I took down my profile because I'm not interested in dating other guys right now, and I'm wondering if you're still dating other people."

I totally, totally understand your anxiety, but someone on mefi made a really good point recently. They said something to the effect of "if you have to chain your dog to the porch, he ain't your dog." If he wants to be with you, he'll stick around. You cannot force it, and you really don't want to, because nothing is more miserable than being in a relationship with someone who doesn't want to be there.

Don't freak out if his response rate falls off a bit in the coming weeks. There is really only so much you can text or email about. Keep yourself busy with other things so you're not staring at your phone/computer.
posted by desjardins at 8:11 AM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

And no matter how excited you may be, and no matter how well-founded that excitement may be, proposing exclusivity after two dates is moving REALLY FAST.

She is talking about proposing exclusivity after two more dates, plus the three past dates, plus the initial time they hung out, for a total of 5 or 6 dates depending on how you're counting. That doesn't seem ridiculously fast to me.
posted by enn at 8:21 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

But why waste time?

Because it has a higher probability of getting her what she wants. Just because you want to be exclusive already doesn't mean that saying "I want to be exclusive already" is the best way to make that happen. It's really not that hard for someone to seem perfect after only knowing them for 3 weeks and only having been on three dates. If you were spending every waking moment with him, that'd be one thing, but you sound like you guys see each other once a week. I say wait a little while to say that you want to be exclusive.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:41 AM on July 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's a lot going on here, but it seems like a big part of your anxiety is fueled by the ex dropping you so unexpectedly. Stuff like that hurts a lot, but it also messes with your sense of reality - like how could I have been so wrong, thinking that everything was great while he was making plans to dump me?

Would it be helpful to put that part out there, so it could be placed to rest at least?

What would it be like to say something like "Hey, I really like you, and I like how things are going! But the last time I really liked someone he dumped me out of the blue. I can tell you all about it sometime if you're interested, but that's not important. What's important is that it hurt me badly and I need to know that you won't do that to me. Can you promise me that if you're not happy with something, that you'll talk to me about it?"

OP, I realize that you're anonymous and can't comment but maybe other Mefis can comment on whether this seems plausable. As a guy, I can tell you that I would have no problem hearing this from someone early on in the a relationship.
posted by jasper411 at 8:42 AM on July 6, 2011 [4 favorites]

The very simple--and of course extremely hard--thing to do is to live in the present. When I got back into dating after a divorce and the breakup of the last in a series of not-great post-divorce relationships, I decided I was going to focus on going out and enjoying myself, rather than finding the next Mr. Right. This took a lot of pressure off things, I went on quite a few dates with quite a few guys and didn't regret a one, and eventually met Mr. Right Version 2.0 feeling very relaxed and willing to just let things unfold as they were meant to unfold. (Mr. Right V.2, in contrast, was not nearly so successful in living in the moment, and engaged in some relationship anxieties and overthinking that very nearly sabotaged the progress of things...)

You want to define it and have it be A Thing. I find that to be an interesting way of phrasing your desires, and you might explore that a little bit further, in relationship to your point (2). Defining this as A Thing and being In A Relationship rather than just dating is, of course no guarantee that it won't end badly. I think the best way to deal with your fear in (2) is not to convince yourself that it's a different guy, and this time it's different (because it's been defined! it's A Thing!), but to convince yourself that things fizzling out, or a breakup, even, is not such a huge disaster. Stop thinking in terms of "rejection" and more in terms of things working out for the best in this best of all possible worlds, one door shutting and another opening, etc.

Which leads you back to living in the moment.
posted by SomeTrickPony at 9:13 AM on July 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

Do not bring up exclusivity; do not try to define your relationship via (over)talking about commitment. Relationships are not definable. Either you're seeing each other exclusively, or you're not, but a conversation does not decide this.

Couples need time to develop. You need time to feel it all out. It's great that it's working so well right now. If things continue along this awesome track, you will be happy, whether levels of commitment are discussed at an upcoming brunch or not.

I know it sounds like I'm saying that you should play games, or you shouldn't be honest with this great guy and really tell him how you feel. I'm not. I am saying that you banish the insecure lady who's worried about the past repeating itself to only the deepest reaches of your silent mind. Enjoy the beginnings of your romance. You won't get this time back. Don't be preoccupied with definitions and vows; they really mean very little at this early stage in the game.
posted by Kronur at 2:01 PM on July 6, 2011

This post might help to explain why the cowardly ex dropped you so suddenly.
posted by foxjacket at 4:26 PM on July 6, 2011

You have my sympathies. I think it is totally understandable to feel how you feel.

That said,

Do what you can to just chill out about it. It *is* possible to scare someone off who would otherwise get just as into serious commitment with you as you would like, by pressuring too hard too early, or coming off as insecure. I think telling him or dropping hints that you are ready for a deeper level is fine, but be prepared for him to be not ready to get that serious yet... and then just drop it. Enjoy the time you have together. If it is meant to be, he will come around in time. Especially once you have already told him how you feel, he *knows* and you don't have to keep hammering the point home. This will only annoy him and possibly make him feel like prey. You do not want him to feel this way. Just continue to show him, on a daily basis, how awesome you are, and how wonderful it is to be with you.

The reason I say this: I am with a guy, very happily, for four and a half years now (I am 38 if that matters). Early on, he was reluctant to say we were "dating". Then he was reluctant to say we were "in a relationship", "boyfriend and girlfriend", stuff like that. I was able to just kind of shrug and say "well, you know what? being with you is pretty awesome, and I'd really like to continue doing it" and we just kept spending time with one another, and enjoying each others' company. We were long distance for two years, so there is that difference, but eventually he made the leap of faith to move in with me when he graduated. It was rocky finding a job, very very tense, but eventually he found one and that smoothed out and things have been great ever since. Anyway I just tell you my story to illustrate that sometimes just relaxing and enjoying a man's company and not being in a hurry to put labels on things can work out.

And special note: I am bipolar and on heavy medication, so that is probably a factor in my personal story. Unmedicated me (or a younger me!) would have been clingy, needy, depressed, and wigged the fuck out. And not attractive for him in the least. I am not saying you need meds, you sound quite normal.
posted by marble at 6:32 PM on July 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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