I'm not crazy about you (yet?)
September 4, 2011 5:42 PM   Subscribe

How long to give a potential relationship before breaking it off?

Recently I met a very nice man online. We met in person shortly after we began talking and had a really nice time at dinner together. Since that first real-life date we have been out 3 more times. He is a good person and someone I feel comfortable around. Although he is an introvert, we have enough to talk about because we work in the same field and share a similar world view because of it.

Things are progressing well, I would say. He always initiates the next date and sends really sweet e-mails during the workday. He has great potential for a long-term partner: no red flags, very nice, good morals, stable job, etc. The thing is that I am not sure how I feel about him. Normally I tend to date more outgoing, funny, talkative guys so I might not be used to dating someone more low-key. I am now in my late 20s and realizing that feeling passion and dramatic feelings straight away is not necessarily any indication of a good relationship. So I am trying to be okay with not feeling a lightning bolt when I hear from him. I like to hear from him but I feel more like “That’s nice” rather than “OMG exciting!”.

When I discussed this with my sister the other day, she suggested I break things off to prevent leading him on because she gets the impression that he is way more into it than I am. Based on his behaviours I would have to agree. I get the impression he doesn’t have much dating experience (he is 29 FWIW).

I think the problem is that I like the way he makes me feel (interesting, valued, attractive) but I am sort of lukewarm about him as a person. Is this maybe because I have never dated an introvert before? Maybe I am used to being more fascinated by partners than I am with him?

How long should I give this potential relationship? I don’t have butterflies but are butterflies necessary? I don’t want to lead him on and risk him having his heart broken if he is, in fact, more invested than I am. We have not had sex yet and I don’t think I would be comfortable having sex with him unless I were more sure about my feelings.

How long do I give this?
posted by Small Pockets to Human Relations (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
What would it take for you to be more sure about your feelings? I get the vibe you're never going to come around to the point where you have actual feelings for the guy, which seems like a leading-him-on sort of situation. Especially the part where you like how he makes you feel (the mean way of saying that would be that you like the attention), but don't like him as a person.

In the end, it just sounds like this guy isn't as equipped to create attraction as men you've dated before. And it seems unlikely you'll be willing to settle for someone you're not attracted to. So I'd break it off ASAP.
posted by Jacen Solo at 5:47 PM on September 4, 2011

posted by John Cohen at 5:47 PM on September 4, 2011

Why don't you initiate the next date? Do something that's very "you" and maybe try to nudge him out of his comfort zone a little bit. Maybe you'll see another side of him. I wouldn't break things off with a nice, great-potential-having dude unless I gave it the old college try.
posted by phunniemee at 5:49 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Butterflies aren't always necessary. Sometimes the people who would be the best for us aren't the ones who make us weak in the knees initially. My cousin only figured out her husband was the man of her dreams a whole year after they started dating. I'd give it things time to unfold and get to know him better without overthinking it too much.

I think the problem is that I like the way he makes me feel (interesting, valued, attractive)...

This is a good thing. A very good thing. Just see where it goes with this guy, okay?
posted by sunnychef88 at 5:50 PM on September 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

we have been out 3 more times

You're not wild about him, you've done your due diligence. You are free to move on.

However, if you want to be wild about him, maybe see how he responds on "your" territory. Pick an activity that you love. Set up all the details.

Sometimes a different environment can give you a different picture of a person.

But really, he's showing you who he is up front. If there is a lot (or anything really) that you want to change about him now, that's not going to go away. If it's just you wanting something more "exotic" or whatever....maybe evaluate your expectations of relationships, and be more clear with yourself about what you are, and are not, looking for?
posted by bilabial at 5:52 PM on September 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I would wait it out. If you didn't have much in common then it would be different, but since you actually have quite a bit in common it sounds like it could work out wonderfully. If his reason for being way into you is not having much dating experience rather than being creepily, desperately enamored of you are then I think it's likely that things will even up. One thing I'd consider is, would he get along with your friends? Or the kind of people you typically hang out with? If the personality difference is too marked in that case, then I'd be more inclined to move on. But it has been the case in my experience that relationships that start with a bang are fun but by no means more worthwhile or sustainable in the long-term (as you know), and what most people want after the first couple years is someone sweet and reliable who also makes them feel good-- which is what you have!

Though, if your feelings don't keep growing or you start looking down on him, then I'd cut him free.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:11 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes you should feel OMG - it's just a different flavor of OMG! when it's right - including being soft, yet powerful.

I'm thinking being lukewarm just doesn't cut it.

It's OK. Move on.
posted by jbenben at 6:34 PM on September 4, 2011

I'd have already moved on, but I think a certain type of chemistry is a must.
posted by Jayed at 6:45 PM on September 4, 2011

I think you can go another date or two without leading him on. That doesn't mean you should, if you know in your heart of hearts this isn't going anywhere, but if you're not sure and want to see -- why not?
posted by J. Wilson at 8:03 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think the problem is that I like the way he makes me feel (interesting, valued, attractive)...

This is a good thing. A very good thing.

I have to beg to differ when the part after the ellipsis is:

...but I am sort of lukewarm about him as a person. Is this maybe because I have never dated an introvert before? Maybe I am used to being more fascinated by partners than I am with him?

I've been here, multiple times. I've followed the path that leads on from here, multiple times, so I know what comes next (and next, and next, to my regret).

Dating a guy because he makes you feel good about yourself is not enough. Of course a guy you're dating should make you feel good about yourself. That's a bare minimum. But if that's the primary thing you're getting out of it you are not in a relationship of equals, and it will go bad places quickly. If you don't feel like he's interesting, valuable, and attractive, in the long run you won't be able to make him feel those things about himself in return for the way he makes you feel. If you keep him around because he makes you feel good, but you don't actually like him, you're using him for the ego boost. "No red flags"? "Very nice"? Your lack of interest is palpable.

I don't mean to be harsh! I empathize with how easily this can happen -- because hey, he's a nice guy, right? And he makes you feel good? And he likes you and is into it? Why would you want to hurt him and leave yourself lonely by breaking off this apparently-good thing?

End it now. Like I said, I've been down this path, so I know there's nothing better waiting around the corner for you.
posted by ootandaboot at 8:29 PM on September 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

By the way, note that the previous post John Cohen links to, in which there are a lot of votes for "it's ok without butterflies!", is a poster who's asking about a lack of feeling "nervous, insecure, and antsy" after one date and generally describes the budding romance in much, much more positive terms than you do here. You don't need to be a big quivering ball of excitement every time he texts, but if you've been on four dates and you're using the word "lukewarm", I say it's already over.
posted by ootandaboot at 8:37 PM on September 4, 2011

What's lost in playing for time? You enjoy his company so keep enjoying it... assuming he doesn't start making grand protestations of love and hopes that you'll be doddering around making tea for each other when y'all are in your 80s.

By the way, a slew of people who got married long before online dating came along have said three dates is nothing in terms of getting a real sense of someone and the relationship.
posted by ambient2 at 10:00 PM on September 4, 2011

Best answer: If you don't feel like he's interesting, valuable, and attractive, in the long run you won't be able to make him feel those things about himself in return for the way he makes you feel. If you keep him around because he makes you feel good, but you don't actually like him, you're using him for the ego boost

I tend to agree with this statement, but it is hard for any of us to really tell you what you need to do.

First off, I love online dating. That is how I met the "man of my dreams" so to say, but he is not the first person that I dated while being online. The first guy I dated long term from online dating is exactly how you describe your current relationship. My ex was nice and he made me feel attractive and good. I even had fun going out to eat and playing video games and such.

BUT, I always had this "I will see" mentality. My ex was infatuated with me and I was luke warm about him, but I wanted to give it a chance. After about 5 month I got bored and broke up with. I broke his heart while I did not bat an eye over it. I hope that now He can find someone who equally Loves him back. Everyone deserves that. If you feel luke warm about this guy then you might be hurting him inadvertently.

2 months after I broke up with this ex I went back to online dating and I found my current boyfriend. He was fun and made me feel good, but there was also the spark. It is hard to describe why he is so much better, but sometimes you can not explain it. My feelings were like a positive graph. I just kept liking him more and more every time I saw him. I knew very quickly that he was amazing.

There is no guarantee and it may take a looong time, but I think it is worth it to find someone that you click with. I think a good relationship for both partners consists of equal appreciation of each other. I think that builds trust and comfort and makes both parties happy.

I think that you should not be afraid to keep dating. There are tons of guys out there and there might be one that brings you more excitement.

Although, you need figure out what you need because everyone has different views on this, but I just wanted to share my experience where I felt I was in a similar situation and the outcome of dating for longer to see how it turned out. I hope you find this experience useful.
posted by Jaelma24 at 11:50 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

How often do you laugh together? What does it feel like when you hug each other?

If the answers are within easy reach of "often" and "nice" then I like bilabial's suggestion to take him out and show him more of you. Many people, even after three dates, are still cautious and playing it safe. If you both have been doing this, you're probably boring each other. A little gamble might tip things over for both of you, and either way.

If the answers are closer to "we just talk about work" and "eww" then, well, you already know.
posted by wobh at 5:35 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

As an introvert myself, I'd say stick it out a little longer; he might come out of his shell yet. Have you tried pouring booze down him?

That said, not being attracted to someone because they're introverted strikes me as no more controversial than not being attracted to someone because they have the wrong kind of genitals. Maybe you're just extrosexual.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:51 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'd vote for breaking it off. He seems like a great guy, but it's totally ok for you not to be that into him. The one time that I tried to stick it out because I thought that I should be more excited about the relationship than I was, I ended up making a big mess and hurting someone more than was necessary. Plus, it was just really stressful to constantly manage the cognitive dissonance caused by dating someone that I was really lukewarm about.
posted by Ragged Richard at 8:38 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think it's definitely worth giving this more time. At least another 3 get togethers. Some people take a long time before they can relax and be themselves around someone new. But once they feel comfortable they can be a lot more fun which can make them even more attractive. This could very well be the case with the guy you're dating. And just because lightning strikes doesn't mean there will be a fire. On the flip side, you don't need lightning to start a good fire and keep it burning. I would just recommend focusing on having fun and not worrying about "the spark". After several more get togethers, re evaluate. But with so many good qualities, it's worth seeing how things shape up with this guy. Good luck.
posted by ljs30 at 11:42 AM on September 5, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you for the great answers. After reading this thread and thinking it over, I think it's best if I move on. I think I am trying too hard to get something out of this which is fair to neither of us.
posted by Small Pockets at 12:41 PM on September 5, 2011

I'll out myself as the poster of the "previously" link that John Cohen cited. This is what's happening with me: we are still going out (a month later) and I felt good but not head-over-heels for him about him for the first two weeks or so.

My attachment has definitely grown, and he's now moving across the country in three weeks. My initial reaction when he told me this was "eh, don't care too much" and a week later it was suddenly more like, "OMG don't leave me!"

So yes, it can definitely develop. But yes, I saw not only a lack of red flags but a lot of really positive qualities in my guy from the start.
posted by queens86 at 1:21 PM on September 5, 2011

I've been in a similar situation for the past few months (it's slightly long distance so time sort of expands). Though with perhaps the important difference that we have been having sex, and that is very good.
A few days ago something went wrong in his life and I found out that a) I do care, very much and b)he has the strength that I wasn't sure was there.
Obviously you can't, and wouldn't want to, arrange for something to go wrong for him, but here's another vote for doing as bilabial suggests - do something that pushes him, and you, slightly out of your comfort zone. And see what happens...
posted by sianifach at 3:12 PM on September 5, 2011

It sounds like you're using his affection to make you feel good about yourself without reciprocating, which if true will make the resolution to the situation suck more for both of you the longer you put it off.

But it sounds like you already got that, so this is really a shout-out to future introverts who, if you give them a chance, may rock your fucking world! I always tended to go for social, life-of-the-party types, and had mixed results. Mr. kit is the most introverted person I've ever been with, and I can certainly vouch that when you meet the right person limerance is not dependent on extroversion.
posted by kitarra at 7:20 PM on September 5, 2011

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