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August 2, 2011 3:26 PM   Subscribe

What to do when you really want to make a go of it with someone?

After spending my entire dating life dating a combination of bad (physically and emotionally abusive), mentally unwell, or ill-fitting people, I have met someone nice. Not boring. Funny, adventurous, kind, well-traveled, pleasantly nerdy, into the same things I'm into, and acts like a grownup. He is exactly the kind of person I (lady-type) would like to date. We are in our mid-30s.

For reasons I'm trying to tease out, I feel really anxious when I contemplate going out with him. (I'm usually ok in the actual date, but still feel a sense of relief when it's over, even though we always have fun -- good conversation, fun activities, making out.) I'm not sure how I feel about him and it's making me uncomfortable because I detest the thought of stringing him along or too-hastily deciding it won't work and missing out on someone awesome.

Complicating factors:
1) I wouldn't say I'm unboyfriendable, but my natural state is single or casual dating. I've been dropped on my head by relationships and been through some pretty traumatic stuff through other peoples' relationships (death, parents' 7-yr-long divorce). I take real relationships pretty seriously and am not good at seriously dating someone I'm kind of eh about. I feel inauthentic and icky. I'm in therapy to work on the trauma stuff I've been through, but therapist is out of town.

2) This guy is physically very different from past fellas, and I've dated a range. He's very tall and very heavy. I'm not usually attracted to very large people and I'm not sure I'm attracted to him, but that might develop. The idea of sleeping with him before I sort this out is unappealing, because he's looking for something serious, but we've been on several dates and I'm concerned he'll think I'm a weirdo if I don't move things forward soon.

3) He has told me that if his job didn't have drug testing, he'd smoke pot daily. (He's about to switch jobs, so this may be an issue sooner rather than later.) This level of use is an issue for me. FWIW, someone who drank a great deal would probably raise a concern for me too.

4) This great personality combination and compatability does not occur for me all that often, otherwise I wouldn't care whether it was relationship-phobia or lack of chemistry that was bugging me and I'd give up. I don't get many chances where even this much is a match with people in my geographical area.

Questions: Should I keep going out with him? Or is it not-nice to keep going when I'm so ambivalent? Have you any experience where you faced a similar situation?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
For me, that type of drug/alcohol use is a dealbreaker. So, that would pretty much kill it for me.

There are too many wrongs in this already for it to be right.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 3:36 PM on August 2, 2011 [10 favorites]

For years, I was in relationships with people who treated me poorly, and who weren't a good fit for me. I briefly dated a really guy who I wasn't terribly attracted to, and who had a few factors that were rather like yours. The great thing about dating him was realizing that I could be treated nicely by a romantic partner. I also realized that I didn't have to date someone just because they were nice. You don't have to date this guy just because he's nice.
posted by Zophi at 3:42 PM on August 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

If you're looking for a boyfriend and one of your qualms is that he would smoke pot daily if he could, then you should not be trying to make a go of it with him.
posted by mleigh at 3:43 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

It seems like you're trying to convince yourself that you're more attracted to this person than you are and your little inner voice is telling you that he's not someone you want to keep dating. If you feel relieved when the date ends that's a pretty big red flag. But the smoking, the lack of physical attraction...

It's fine to recognize that he may be a very nice person, but he's not for you and and just move on.
posted by kinetic at 3:45 PM on August 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

Sadly he sounds like the KIND of person you'd like to get serious with (and good for you, your criteria are great) but not THE person you'd like to get serious with.

You'll know when you meet the person. Everything is easy. It just fits. (That's good, because later on you get to do the hard work of figuring out how to adjust your lives and settled habits together.)
posted by bearwife at 3:50 PM on August 2, 2011 [12 favorites]

What kinetic and mleigh said. If you feel relief when a date is over, why keep seeing him? It sounds like you've been on 4-6 dates (? several?) and that should be enough time that if you're not feeling it, you're not going to feel it.

You have askme's permission to stop dating a great guy who is clearly not great FOR YOU.
posted by min at 3:50 PM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

Numbers 2 and especially 3 send out red flags for me.

My personal theory about most men who smoke a lot of pot is that they want to get close but not too close. If they do they'll have to change.

I think your instincts are clearer than you realize. It also sounds like you are handling the situation much better than you realize.

I don't get many chances where even this much is a match with people in my geographical area.

Keep fleshing out what you're fleshing out in therapy. I am guessing that your prospects will increase and your choices clearer. He may seem like the shining knight now. I have faith in the potential that is out there for you. (Good, interesting, sexy guys are cool ; We're worth walking through the minefields for. And for women too)

It's not easy to wait (many reasons to jump the gun: societal pressures, need) If you're working on yourself the wait pays off. You're coming out of a womb a second time. With that comes a new vulnerability and yet tools, experience and support are available to you to make good choices.

Like I said, I think it's kick-ass the way you've handled this so far. Pretty fearless and smart in my book.

And let me be one of the first to encourage you to increase your geographical area.
posted by goalyeehah at 3:54 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

First things first, congrats on breaking out of abusive relationships.

That being said, it will take some time to adjust to dating and companionship with non-abusive, non-manipulative persons. There is a strong chance that you are subconsciously attracted to those most likely to repeat the cycle, and you'll have to put some effort into re-wiring yourself. However, that isn't TOO great a task, as you've found yourself with a new person who is different! Hurray! You may feel "eh" about him, but it's a good sign that you are becoming drawn to those who will treat you well and like an equal. I think you should let this one go - there are more people like Mr. "Eh" in the world who might very well be Mr. "OMG!"

Good luck.
posted by Ashen at 3:55 PM on August 2, 2011

Ask him about it. People who are nice and like each other talk about stuff. If he really likes you, than smoking a bit less pot is very much on the table for negotiation. And he's smoking none right now, so it's not like a big leap.

Physically, eh, might be a deal breaker but as you say you might change your mind about that.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:55 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you lack the essential spark of attraction needed to make this viable.

FWIW I have dated people 10+ years older than me since I was 18 or something. Everyone I ever dated was taller than me, too, which isn't hard as I'm a bit short. My husband is, at the same age I am, the youngest person I have ever had a relationship with. He's also about an inch taller than me, and I spent the first six months of our relationship repeatedly saying in this sort of disbelieving tone of wonder "You're so... short!" It actually felt awkward to me, if I remember this right.

Despite him being too young to fuck and too short to marry and just not my historic type, there was this huge, hot, instant attraction which you appear to lack. People kinda imprint on each other over time, and I now feel quite small standing next to him. And he got 10 years older :)
posted by DarlingBri at 4:11 PM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

After spending my entire dating life dating a combination of bad (physically and emotionally abusive), mentally unwell, or ill-fitting people, I have met someone nice.

Forgive me if I'm completely off-base, but it sounds a bit to me like you really want to make it work with this guy because it seems to you that finding someone nice/non abusive/mentally well/etc. is rare.

Would you feel any differently about pursuing things with this guy, if you felt like people with those qualities were growing on trees and you were meeting them all the time?
posted by Ashley801 at 4:18 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's hard when you get out of intense, complicated relationships to judge new ones. The first thing you should tell yourself is that you always have a choice. No matter if he's the next best thing to sliced bread, you're not obligated. You can stop dating this person at any time. Stop worrying about his feelings and pay attention to yours. You say you feel anxious? Listen to your inner voice. Doubts about potential pot smoking. Listen to that.

The other thing is to make sure you're honest and tell him that you're taking it slow right now, so this is a casual, getting-to-know each other period, not a picking-out-china and sending out wedding invitations thing. If he can't handle that, then you are letting him know while setting your own boundaries upfront.

And it's perfectly okay to date someone a while and say, "you're nice, but it's just not working out for me." I dated a variety of people after a really long and dramatic relationship and even tho' they were perfectly nice guys, they weren't for me.

Or as one of my friends says, "men are like shoes, you just have to keep trying the on until you find something comfortable."
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:20 PM on August 2, 2011

You shouldn't date people you find to be nice and interesting but not to your taste. Pushing yourself into a relationship with any old person is how you keep ending up with not very good ones. Move on.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:30 PM on August 2, 2011

It's ok to keep going out if you're ambivalent, if you have fun (and so does the other person). Since you're not really having fun, or are kinda-sort of having fun, or are ambivalent about having fun... well, that's your answer. I do think things change with time, but people don't suddenly become awesome (in my experience). It tends to be obvious pretty quick if they're amazing, but what comes with time is comfort and better knowledge of how/why your first impression works out in practice. Like, I tend to know immediately if someone's awesome, and then can spend like, 5 years figuring out different clauses, caveats, extensions, diluting influences, etc., and getting at ease with communicating first and foremost. Time tends to change negative prejudices, too-- so if you're convinced someone's horrible if they're not, time will fix that if you're open-minded. But it doesn't change your perception if you're not currently strongly prejudiced.

So, be at ease that if you like him but don't think he's omg-awesome, that's not suddenly going to appear. You'll just get more at ease with him. Given he's a regular, nice guy, then I'd say 1 year from now it's likely you'll no longer feel awkward or relieved after a date, but rather just... well, ordinary. Like, 'that was nice', or whatever, and then you'd go about the rest of your evening without thinking much about it. As for getting more physically attracted, that's not automatic unless you fall in love and/or have a basic chemistry; having chemistry overrides almost all preferences anyone has. In terms of personal experience, I too don't go for super-tall/big guys (in fact, I go for the super-skinny guys), but this one time I met a guy who was huge and tall, and we had strong chemistry. Not like, omg-awesome, but it was potent.

We went out a couple of times. He was a 'nice guy' (kind of a prick, but only in early-20s mild guy-impairments), intelligent, 'pleasantly geeky', a pot-smoker-- in fact he did smoke it almost all the time. I didn't really care, but it made him sort of blunt-edged. I find it a bit embarrassing, because this means the person is always out of it, less than at their best, like you're seeing them after a long night staying up watching Monty Python-- I mean, all the time. It's a bit grating because they're not mentally fresh, plus it's just one more annoying habit. But anyway, even though we had pretty good chemistry (in terms of pheromones), I wasn't in love, so it was a problem that he was huge as soon as we tried to get physical. I mean, there's just a physical barrier there, for me. I'd notice things like how much sweatier he got when going up stairs in the subway, and how much room he'd take up on a couch when I might have leaned over but didn't, since it was awkward. I don't think even love is blind, exactly; if you go just a bit off your normal 'radar', that can be refreshing, but if someone is way out there, you're always reminded. Sort of the opposite way you're reminded when your partner is attractive. I remember with an ex I was attracted to, I sometimes remembered, looking at him-- wow, pretty eyes! But it's the opposite if you're not attracted. And then there's the pure physical impairment level of people who're really big; you have to work around it, so it reminds you of itself, it intrudes.

Anyway, there's actually a lot of nice, geeky, attractive guys out there who won't treat you bad. The more at ease you are with yourself, the more confident and outgoing, the likelier you are to find one (or ten).
posted by reenka at 4:56 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just wondering: what is it after the date that you feel relieved about? That he didn't try to sleep with you? Does he tire you out? You feel nervous with him? You're not feeling worthy? I'm wondering what your thoughts are after the date is over.
posted by hellochula at 5:35 PM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

What to do when you really want to make a go of it with someone?

Your question is what to do when you really want to make a go of it with someone - I'd say you just keep going on dates. It's OK if you want to take it slow and see how things develop. If you want to make a go of it, I wouldn't worry so much about his feelings - it's also OK to break it off when you do make a decision. Until then you are information gathering.

You do seem VERY ambivalent from the rest of your question and details. I'm not sure you're so into this guy, and that's OK too! You totally have permission to not want to keep dating a really nice guy with a good personality just for those qualities. Those qualities are certainly necessary, but not always sufficient.

Agreed that there's a hint of scarcity mentality about guys being nice to you in this question - it's NOT rare, you just need to make that a necessary quality in anyone you date and you will find it.
posted by rainydayfilms at 6:22 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to share this previous AskMeFi post and thought it might offer some insight for you, if slightly different from the tone and nature of your question.
posted by simulacra at 7:13 PM on August 2, 2011

Anonymous, I am a lot like you. I'm in my early 30's and have always been single or "dating", or in some otherwise weird set-up that I could not define as a relationship.

I struggle with the same things you do: I get attracted to guys who are bad for me or unavailable. Recently I met a nice guy, too, and I feel the same as you- relieved when the date is over so I can go back home and read or watch a movie. It really bothers me, too, but I figure after giving it a couple dates it's not worth wasting his time considering I feel kind of "eh" about the thought of kissing him (we haven't yet). I've been attracted to people for real. It usually doesn't take longer than a few dates to figure out the attraction, and when I really like someone, I don't feel relieved when we part. (ok, maybe after I've known them awhile and I really need some time alone, but not after first meeting them).

So...I agree with others that it sounds like there are too many "not-quite-rights" about this situation. You don't really sound that attracted to him. I know it's frustrating to never seem to meet the right person, but don't give up! Don't settle.
posted by bearette at 7:28 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

You need to figure out what you want in a partner. I don't know you, your histories, your stories, absolutely nothing about you.
Everyone looks for different things in relationships. Not all relationships are built on the same foundation. Not all relatinships start off with some spark. Not all relations....anything. Everyone claims they have a requirement of x, yet rarely do I see this completely followed. Other people certainly have some form of requirement someone can't have, this tends to be followed, not always strictly in forced.
Figure out what you want in a relationship and go from there. Be honest to yourself, and do what you do.
posted by handbanana at 8:03 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's going against the flow here, but I wouldn't use the potential pot-smoking as a deal-breaker. I've known people who suddenly at age 30-something decided they had stuff they wanted to accomplish and stopped smoking, from near-daily to once or twice a year if ever. your guy has had his current job for some time, and says he misses his old habits, but he's not currently smoking - i.e. it's not genuinely that important to him. IF you wanted to take this relationship seriously, it is a definite possibility that you could tell him no way any boyfriend of yours would smoke that much, and he might just decide that you, like his job, are worth it.

That's IF. I can't really help with whether you decide he's worth putting your foot down on this issue over.
posted by aimedwander at 6:55 AM on August 3, 2011

It's ok to be ambivalent or unsure for a while. People date to figure out whether they want to date.

But after a handful of dates, you should know whether there's a spark. If there isn't, that's nobody's fault. You aren't required to figure out why.

The only acceptable answers to "do I want to be in a relationship with this person" are "HELL YES" and "NO."
posted by jessicapierce at 7:31 AM on August 3, 2011

If I were your very tall and very heavy guy, it would be really hard for me to get excited about building a future with someone that wasn't attracted to me, or needed more time in order to get there. If you've been on several dates and haven't gotten naked with him yet, he knows you're not excited about him.

You need to go, if for none of the other reasons than to give him the opportunity to find someone who thinks he's absolutely the cat's meow.

You're excited about dates being over. Get excited about letting this relationship go. Do it now, do it quickly, and go find someone you can't get enough of.
posted by phoebus at 8:44 AM on August 3, 2011

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