love without limerence?
August 12, 2011 12:16 PM   Subscribe

How important are the butterflies?

So, I met a guy online and have been out with him three times. I like him, we get along great, he makes me laugh, he’s smart, sweet, and has good taste. He is clearly into me and asked me out on a 2nd date at the end of the first (which I like).

So here’s the problem. Usually when I start dating a guy, I am nervous, insecure and antsy—basically on the edge of my seat waiting for him to call. I have a date set up with this guy for tomorrow and he didn’t text me yesterday. Usually that would have made me anxious, but now not at all. I'm not bothered if I'm the last to text. I’m not sitting around analyzing every message for signs of his attraction like usual.

I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Every relationship I have been in has turned me into an anxious, overanalzying, insecure mess because the men have been crazy jealous, cheaters, or withheld their affection. I have usually worried in my relationships about how attached/attracted to me the other person was. It’s not a fun state to be in and I don’t want to date someone who causes so much insecurity in me, but now I’m wondering whether it’s a bad sign that I’m not a little insecure about this one.

Basically, I feel like I don’t have a “crush” on him. I like his personality and I think he’s pretty cute (but not someone I would pick out of a crowd) and I look forward to seeing him again. We haven’t had sex and while I want to have sex with him, I’m not dying to this instant. Being with him feels safe and comfortable and enjoyable but not filled with fireworks or excitement.

So, does this sound like something I should run with, or should we just be friends? Some of my friends say that I shouldn’t try and force an attraction to someone I’m unsure about, and some say to give it some time and see if more attraction grows. Can attraction grow? Should I stick around or should I go try and find someone who is kind and stable and open about his feelings AND who I can’t wait to rip clothes off of? I hear about how people’s significant relationships start with infatuation and walking around daydreaming about the other person and running into walls and not being able to sleep, and that’s just now how I feel. At the same time, I’m enjoying myself and don’t really want to break it off.

So, what do you think? How necessary is that initial chemistry? Have I been mistaking insecurity and drama for attraction this whole time, or am I just not all that into this dude?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
The initial chemistry could be that you feel comfortable and secure with him.
posted by The Deej at 12:19 PM on August 12, 2011 [7 favorites]

It doesn't always have to be like in the movies. I'm guessing it rarely is.

There's nothing wrong. Lack of butterflies is perfectly OK.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:21 PM on August 12, 2011

He's nice, he's pretty cute and you're enjoying yourself. Keep going.
posted by soelo at 12:21 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds really, really nice. Could be even better when you see what it's all about behind closed doors. You never know. I would run. And I don't mean away.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:22 PM on August 12, 2011

Being with him feels safe and comfortable and enjoyable

Sounds good to me! If only all people were so lucky.

I’m enjoying myself and don’t really want to break it off.

OK, then don't!

You've only been on one date, if I'm reading that right? And you like him a lot, just don't want to necessarily jump his bones the second you see him? For chrissakes, give the guy a chance! I think it would be tremendously foolish to quit this early without at least seeing where it goes. Go enjoy your date!
posted by phunniemee at 12:23 PM on August 12, 2011

It’s not a fun state to be in and I don’t want to date someone who causes so much insecurity in me, but now I’m wondering whether it’s a bad sign that I’m not a little insecure about this one.

This is worth thinking about. Why you think being insecure = possibly necessary romantic excitement. You may well have been mistaking drama for passion.

Nothing you've said says that he's boring or you're lukewarm on him, just that you're not freaking out. You've enjoying yourself, you're confident... sounds like that chemistry is actually there - it's just a bit quieter and subtler than you're used to. Think wine, not whisky.

Now, if you had written, "I don't know how I feel about him, I don't feel anything really, should I give this a chance?" I'd say life is too short. But that's not what you said, now is it?

But this, this could be the start of something good.
posted by canine epigram at 12:24 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]

You might just be a different person than you were before. I found/find my current partner crazy attractive -- but I didn't feel nervous/anxious/whatever when dealing with him as I had with others in the past because I had moved beyond that part of my life. We've certainly had our share of drama in the long run, and I was nervous when we finally had sex but only because we'd waited for a long time (relative for us)

But even though I felt he was more attractive than me and I wasn't sure if he was truly 'into me', I didn't fret about my insecurities. Because I'd grown past that point in my life and defining a relationship through how it was going to fulfill something I was lacking. Maybe you have too.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:29 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

This could definitely be the start of something good.

I started dating my now boyfriend this time last year, and could've written your question almost verbatim the first few weeks I knew him; smart, stable, liked his personality, attracted to him, sane, but no crazy fireworks. And, like you, almost all of my past relationships were high drama, which, upon reflection, I definitely conflated with passion, as canine epigram pointed out. I wondered whether it was worth pursuing, because it wasn't like what I'd known before.

And sheesh, I'm so glad it wasn't and isn't! I'm so glad I didn't miss out on a really great relationship because of a lack of butterflies at first; the more we got to know each other, the more our attraction and chemistry grew, and I can say that this is the healthiest and best relationship I've ever been in. And to think I would have missed out if I hadn't given it just a bit of time. Go for it!
posted by stellaluna at 12:36 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

How necessary is that initial chemistry?

On the whole? Most of the good, strong relationships I've seen begin with at least one half of the couple going "hmm" instead of "OMGOMGOMG". Meanwhile, being able to relax around a person is just so worthwhile of a quality to be around.

... look forward to seeing him again.

This is basically the only thing that matters here (well, outside of the general assumption that he is a decent human being.) Keeping doing what you're doing and you'll see for yourself if things start to heat up or cool down. Just try your best and not make problems for yourself by thinking that not feeling uncomfortable is a bad thing.
posted by griphus at 12:44 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'd say that the lack of butterlies may or may not be a problem depending on what gives you butterflies. In previous cases, if I'm reading your question right, is that butterflies come from those brief moments where you feel reassured that the person who's emotionally withholding or treating you poorly opens the floodgates and shows emotion toward you, or makes you feel like they'll stop treating you poorly. I'd say if that, in the past, is what's given you butterflies, maybe the lack of butterflies in this situation is actually a good thing!

Now, if the lack of excitement you feel is missing is killing your sexual attraction to this person or it feels like a chore dating him, then, yeah, cut it off. But if you are attracted to him and enjoy his company - this does not sound like a problem to me at all - no.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:52 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ok, a note from the other side of the story. I had always heard from people "attraction can grow", "it takes time", etc, etc. So I tried it out. I met someone who I thought was attractive, though was not especially attracted to, who was funny and nice and kind and liked me. And I liked him. But I didn't like him like him. So I gave it time. But because I didn't have real feelings for him, his faults were glaring and annoying.

By the time I decided that I wasn't in it to win it and broke up with him (a couple months later), I got accused of leading him on, etc, etc, even though I had discussed how I felt throughout the relationship. But it ended kind of ugly and I could have done without ever having dated him at all.

That being said I have been in more than few relationships, and of the two people who I have loved, I knew I loved them pretty much the moment I met them. So I've decided that that's just how I am, and to trust my gut rather than wasting time hoping my feelings will change. You might be that way too, and I say trust your gut.
posted by greta simone at 12:54 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have NO idea why I went on a second (or possibly even third) date with my current boyfriend. I wasn't really feeling it,he was cool but we didn't seem to mesh and I wasn't getting all stupid excited about him, but hey 1.5 years later I'm pretty damn happy I did.
posted by magnetsphere at 12:55 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I always thought butterflies were positive things. Things like, grinning like an idiot after you get off the phone with them. Catching yourself getting lost in the memories of the last time you spent together. Coming up with excuses to talk to them (and all the while feeling a bit stupid about it). Listening to romantic or awesome music and being reminded of them. Being absolutely antsy to see them again. Gushing about them to your friends and just laughing when they roll their eyes.

That kind of thing.

Lack of insecurity just means you've met someone nice who is compatible with you. Butterflies might develop, they might not. Give it some more time.
posted by millions of peaches at 1:00 PM on August 12, 2011

Two of the best relationships I ever had began with me thinking after the first date that the guy was kind of a dink. But they were nice dinks, so I agreed to a second date anyway, thinking "eh, give it one more chance to be nice and then I'll turn him down after."

And in both cases in the middle of the second date I realized that I was all wrong and the guy was awesum and wondered where I'd gotten the "he's a dink" idea from.

You're enjoying yourself, you don't want to break it off - so don't.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:01 PM on August 12, 2011

I think one aspect of online dating is that it sort of fucks with our more animal ways of knowing somebody.

All my pre-online dating habits came from knowing people a little while before romantic whatever was on the table. Or meeting somebody with whom there was instant chemistry. When I made the switch to: 1) Stranger who wants to date to 2) Communicating w/o being in close proximity to the stranger who wants to date to 3) Dating the stranger who wanted to date, there have been many moments of awkwardness that I don't remember from the olden days.
posted by angrycat at 1:19 PM on August 12, 2011

Two of the best relationships I ever had began with me thinking after the first date that the guy was kind of a dink. But they were nice dinks, so I agreed to a second date anyway, thinking "eh, give it one more chance to be nice and then I'll turn him down after."

My wife still thinks I'm a dink. We celebrated our 27th anniversary yesterday.
posted by Doohickie at 1:20 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

If you aren't attracted, that is a bad sign.

However, by attracted I don't mean nervous, I mean "having sex with this guy would be enjoyable".

I have known people (usually women) who don't want to have sex with someone but keep dating that person. That is a mistake. However, that's not what's happening. I think that's the disconnect between your friends' advice and our advice.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:49 PM on August 12, 2011

I married this guy. No butterflies for about a year - and then just minor. But it's a great marriage. If you want to have sex with him, you have chemistry, just not crushingness/limerance.

You may get limerance, you may not - what's more important is whether a) you like being with this person, and b) you like being romantic/sexual with this person. That's the basis of a good romantic/sexual relationship.
posted by jb at 2:06 PM on August 12, 2011

This is all still early dating stages. The only thing to worry about is you wanting nothing to do with him taking his clothes off. If you kiss him and there is zero passion, then it's time to shift to friendzone.

when you were crazy-butterflied up- was it really coming from a good place, or was it coming from the excitement of being on unsteady ground? and when did the crush take hold? you've not been seeing him long- the crush might hit you in the face on date number five. When I think back to early dating stages- dates one through six seem to mash together as New Relationship, and I forget that each meeting was a distinct event and had a distinct feeling about it as much as each day this week has.
posted by Blisterlips at 2:23 PM on August 12, 2011

This precise meditation on the situation could be a sublimated form of interest.
posted by By The Grace of God at 3:22 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

You found some that you like and are totally comfortable with? That's how I knew I found the one, and we married 3 months, 10 days after the day we met. It's 4 years later, and every day I fall more in love with her and think how lucky I am to have her as my wife.

I can understand being nervous about not being nervous. But to me it sounds like you found the one who is just right for you. It sounds like you are evolving in your relationship tastes. Stop waiting for butterflies, and become the butterfly.

I' sorry, that's corny. But it's also true. Your basic complaint can be some up as: there's not a lot of disharmony right now, am I wrong now or was I wrong before?

Or put it this way; you are complaining about not having enough to complain about. Of course your friends who haven't been lucky enough to make it here will talk you back into making wrong decisions, but later on when they get the opportunity for harmony and comfort, they will jump on it. They will. Don't pass it up now because you think otherwise.
posted by BurnChao at 5:28 PM on August 12, 2011

Have I been mistaking insecurity and drama for attraction this whole time

I think a lot of people do.
posted by eritain at 6:21 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm one of the people here on AskMe who has said that I had the butterflies stage, but in my case I had never felt like that before at all (nothing even close – and I wasn't a tender young thing, I had been married before). So, what I'm saying is that this reaction was completely non-typical for me, and in my case he did turn out to be my twoo wuv.

You're saying you usually do have anxiety/nervousness etc., but you don't this time... Your response is non-typical for you, and the way you've described your past experiences, this sounds like it might be a very good thing indeed.

But at any rate, you don't need to figure out right now if you two could spend the next 50 years together. He makes you laugh, he’s smart, sweet, and has good taste, you like his personality, think he’s pretty cute, and are looking forward to seeing him again. This sounds like a pretty fabulous basis for a fourth date at the very least.

I'd say stop worrying about your lack of worrying and overyanalyzing your failure to overanalyze, and just enjoy yourself. :)
posted by taz at 8:52 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

A close friend of mine way back had serious reservations about their future spouse specifically because of a lack of this particular sort of emotional froth. My own wife allows that one of the reasons she waffled on reacting to my advances for so long was that she doubted the chemistry (but lo, I pursued her until she could run no more). So yes, people's initial reactions of this sort are not necessarily an unfailing litmus test for the success of a relationship.

You say all your relationships have turned into messes of anxiety, so you know these feelings are not sufficient. So it seems worth challenging the idea that they are necessary or even particularly desirable. My own experience and the observed experience of a fairly large number of relationships (after 25+ years involved in dating and love) is that there is no standard or correct initial character to a lasting relationship. Why not give it a chance and see what develops?
posted by nanojath at 9:12 PM on August 12, 2011

Wow, you are lucky! Usually if you have insane, high passion for someone, it's because there is a sense of drama and insecurity laced in between the hugs and kisses. I currently have a casual relationship with a friend whom I feel totally comfortable and safe around with zero butterflies but totally look forward to seeing him. Just getting to know him in a slow romantic sense, helped me realize what I want out of a real, loving relationship. Take this slow. I have a feeling this could be your most amazing relationship yet.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 9:15 AM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

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