What am I doing wrong in my relationships?
November 7, 2011 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Why do my relationships enter the LET'S MAKE THIS A SERIOUS COMMITMENT I WANT TO SPEND MY LIFE WITH YOU stage at an absurdly rapid pace? I used to think this was a kind of charming quirk, but my apparent inability to slow things down in order to determine the suitability of my partner has begun to concern me a bit. Special snowflake details inside.

First, I'm 23 and female.

In the spring of 2010, I was seeing a guy who told me within the first three days that he could see himself spending the rest of his life with me. At the time, I thought this was a sweet declaration, and if I'm honest with all of you and with myself, I probably felt the same way. Things ended up not working out, and we barely talk anymore. Looking back, I have NO idea what I saw in him at all - we're not really at similar points in life, though we're the same age, and things would never have worked out long term. His early declaration of love should definitely have been a red flag, but I found it charming.

Then this past summer, I became involved with another dude who declared that he loved me the very night we met. This scared me a little bit, but he was incredibly convincing. He turned out to be married with a young child, and I have ceased contact. Again, I should have been freaked out by how strongly he came on, but he made me feel special and wanted.

Most recently, I've been seeing a guy who seems really nice and genuine, but on some level, I'm afraid he's dicking me around. We met about two weeks ago, and already he's discussing taking a vacation together soon and various other Serious Relationship type plans. This is all fine, except for the niggling voice that tells me the previous guys seemed "nice and genuine" too, and I was quickly sucked into a too-good-to-be-true fantasy relationship which quickly fizzled. I guess it's just hard for me to tell if this is real, or if it's like previous attempts at a relationship.

Anyway, the only consistent factor in all of my relationships is me. I'm beginning to wonder if I give off some kind of needy distress vibe which causes these men to come on really strong. I had a (very) difficult childhood and worry that my ability to form healthy relationships has suffered as a consequence.

What is it about my approach to relationships that causes this to happen? How can I take a step back and be a little more objective during the early days of seeing someone?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
It doesn't sound like you're the one who needs to step back. But people tend to do this when they're young or new to relationships in general because OMG I FOUND SOMEBODY WHO EXCITES ME AND I WANT TO HOLD ON. Just put brakes on gently. Those who can handle that are worth exploring further, those who can't aren't.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:34 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have NO idea what I saw in him at all

This part I think you have answered for yourself. It's flattering and intoxicating when someone suddenly focuses ALL their attention on you. He declares his love for you, and you your imagination and endorphins take care of the rest.

Guys who pander directly to women's fantasies about relationships are the lowest form of evil parasitic scum, in my opinion. Usually they are just totally deluded and not actively deceitful, but it doesn't matter -- it still gets your hopes up, and the more times this happens, the less likely you are to trust an actual good thing when it comes along.

Know your limits, and enforce them. No exceptions -- if someone can't handle your boundaries, then they can't handle you, which means you can't handle them.
posted by hermitosis at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2011 [8 favorites]

Well, how are you getting into these relationships? Where did you meet Dude A, Dude B, Dude C, and how did the romantic relationship get initiated?

You might get something out of the several "early warning signs" threads, such as Help me hone my creepometer, and look for the phrase "fast-forwarding" as something to look out for.
posted by endless_forms at 8:38 AM on November 7, 2011

Try to like people because you like them, not because they like you.

In other words, when someone comes on strong, check with yourself if the reason you're excited is because of their personality or looks or whatever other qualities, or if it's mostly because of them coming on so strong.
posted by ook at 8:40 AM on November 7, 2011 [30 favorites]

without knowing too much of the details of anything, if someone declared that they loved me the day we met, I would consider that a warning sign.

Set boundaries and stick to them. Be busy. Not in the sense of following "The Rules" and declining dates because he didn't call you by Wednesday, or whatever, but don't immediately jump into spending all your free time together even if you want to.
posted by inertia at 8:41 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

I noticed a while ago that I was pretty oblivious to romantic attention from non-desperate people. If some sane decent person was respectfully checking me out, I'd have no idea. But a total nutcase who went jumping into my lap all ZOMG MARRY ME NOW — well, that I noticed.

My love life got way better once I started paying more attention to people who were playing it slow and subtle. That also meant being willing to make a move myself more often — since decent people will tend to make a small move and then wait to see if you reciprocate, rather than just like unilaterally flinging themselves headfirst into your pants.

Anyway, I doubt that you're only attracting the wrong kind of people. More likely, decent people find you perfectly attractive too — but you might be overlooking them.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:43 AM on November 7, 2011 [49 favorites]

We met about two weeks ago, and already he's discussing taking a vacation together soon and various other Serious Relationship type plans. This is all fine,

Why is this fine? Do YOU want to go on a vacation with this guy? Do you feel like you like him enough -- or even know him well enough yet -- to be thinking about serious relationship stuff?

Go at your own pace, not at someone else's. If you don't know what your own pace is, then take a step back, and ask him to take a step back, so that you can really think about it. What do YOU want? How do YOU feel about this guy?
posted by headnsouth at 8:46 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, I get guys coming onto me really strongly too, and I'm not needy or clingy or distressed. I have spent most of my life single, and it's something that doesn't really bother me. I think quick declarations of instant love is a general phenomenon that happens to (most) women, and your job as a woman is to be discerning and filter, filter, filter.

on preview, what nebulawindphone said.
posted by moiraine at 8:47 AM on November 7, 2011

Some things which might help:

Have a busy life. This makes sure that you don't end up following one date by another the very next night, or turning a Friday first date into a weekend sleepover.

Don't get deep and meaningful with people you haven't known for a long time. Don't talk about anything that's really personal to you.

If you get into a long conversation, makeout session, or whatever, you be the one to end it at an appropriate time and leave or find something else to do.

Go on dates in which you do things rather than talking about things.

Have boundaries. Practice saying "no". For example: If someone suggests going for Chinese and you don't like Chinese, make sure you say that straight out and suggest something else. If they want you to "come up for a coffee" and you don't really want to, make sure you say no to that too. Have opinions and preferences, even those that might sometimes offend people.

I think you'll find these things will magically fend off the overenthusiastic creep brigade and you won't even have to deal with them.
posted by emilyw at 8:47 AM on November 7, 2011 [17 favorites]

I'm beginning to wonder if I give off some kind of needy distress vibe which causes these men to come on really strong.

It's not exactly that, but you may be (for the lack of a better word) submitting to the advances, letting them manipulate you more and more. There was probably a few things between the first meeting and the declarations that you note that you're not seeing because you're getting all this wonderful attention.

The thing is that Awesome Guys and Supercreeps start out very similarly, and the Supercreeps know that very well. So they keep pushing the boundary and someone who doesn't have a great sense of boundaries thinks "oh man this guy is getting better and better" and then you're on the receiving end of I-love-yous from some married dude with kids who met you several hours ago.

Attention and romance is great, but you've clearly got both a thing for it and underdeveloped boundaries. Next time you're feeling very comfortable with someone you just met, get a little paranoid. Think "who are you to be saying this to someone you do not know." And blah blah love at first sight blah blah they're saying these things to someone about whom they've got a rudimentary idea of as a person, outside of the knowledge that they'll let their guard down if they're flattered. So when the flattery comes, bring out the shields.
posted by griphus at 8:48 AM on November 7, 2011 [14 favorites]

How can I take a step back and be a little more objective during the early days of seeing someone?

I think you should commit to trusting your gut and experience any time a guy says something that can't possibly be true or sincere because it's so early in the relationship--make that a deal-breaker. No matter how charming or genuine a guy seems, even if he believes it himself, if he says something like "I love you" super early: break things off. It won't make you a bad person (and neither does the guy have to be one)--and the good news is, someone who says "I love you" that early in a relationship will have no trouble getting over the "break-up" with you and moving on to someone else.

With more subtle stuff like making vacation plans, I think you need to feel empowered enough to say, "I like you, but I want to take this really slow. I’m not ready to be planning vacations together yet." Someone worth your time will say, "Of course!" and not think any less of you or question your interest in him. A manipulator or emotionally unhealthy person, or someone who just isn't good for you for whatever reason, will try to push you on it.
posted by Meg_Murry at 8:51 AM on November 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

Also: a dude who is willing to do all the work in the romance part is either really desperate or up to something or probably both. If you're getting all the charm piled in your lap and not reciprocating and it's still piling up, that's an ill omen.
posted by griphus at 8:51 AM on November 7, 2011 [8 favorites]

Girl, me too. Nearly every guy I've dated has careened into weepy talk of marriage and true love within, like, weeks of our hooking up, if not before. Like you, I've always found it charming and flattering, and found myself reciprocating, though I've known too that it's probably dangerous. I've got six years on you and I've given this a lot of thought, so here's where I think it comes from for me.

I'm extraordinarily emotionally permeable. When people have strong feelings around me, I start feeling them too. And because I'm subject to strong feelings myself, I'm attracted to people who seem similarly emotionally intense. So when guys start emoting all over me, I start mirroring them without realizing I'm doing it. It sucks. It takes me awhile to notice and quit it.

Because I'm pretty, and reserved, and I tend to reflect whatever strong feelings others express to me, it's easy for men who don't know me well to project all kinds of dream girl fantasies onto me, which, because I'm kind of a pleaser, I really work hard to live up to, usually at my own expense. At first I get a lot of pleasure out that. But what ends up happening is that keeping up that dream girl persona exhausts me, I start expressing my own real feelings and desires, and the guy I've been leading on gets angry and hurt. It's a mess. It's my fault.

The relationship I'm in now is very different from my previous relationships, and I think there are two reasons for that. The first is that my boyfriend and I were platonic friends for many years before we became interested in each other romantically, so he got to know the "real" me, not the romantic persona. The second is that he has a very similar personality, highly emotionally sensitive, eager to please even at his own expense, so we use those talents on one another in tandem, as opposed to the imbalance I've experienced in the past. The only advice I can give you is to look for a guy with those characteristics, and avoid the really aggressive melodrama peddlers, attractive though they may be.
posted by milk white peacock at 8:51 AM on November 7, 2011 [31 favorites]

Here's a tip: when you feel freaked out, act freaked out. It is OK to say, "Whoa, why not get to know me before you decide you love me?"

Some of these guys are probably just falling in love with an idea of perfection that happens to be embodied in the closest female who smiles back at them -- I doubt it's anything actually malicious or manipulative. In the case of the married guy(s), they are horrible scummies who are malicious and manipulative and we'll leave it at that.

I found that I attracted these first type of guy when I was much younger and way more immature. I, too, felt a need to quickly be "in a relationship" if I went out on so much as a date with a guy. You can give yourself permission to take it slow or casually date more than one guy at a time. I found that it was so much fun I was less likely to sign up for a serious relationship with the first guy who started nosing around vacations or meeting his parents.

For the guy you're currently seeing, it is 100% OK to voice your discomfort with the speed of the relationship. Flat out say, "I don't intend to plan a vacation with you until I know you a lot better. Two weeks is not enough time for me to take a road trip or book a hotel in another city." If he respects this, then great! You've been assertive and established boundaries with a good guy who's really into you and eager for more. If he whines or cries or pressures you, then hit the road. (It's been 2 weeks, so no harm no foul, right?)

Your experience so far as taught you that you don't like relationships that get pushy early on, and the most important lesson to learn from this is that it's OK to walk away.
posted by motsque at 8:52 AM on November 7, 2011 [7 favorites]

Some people do feel an immediate, intense, deep connection to another person that doesn't go away. There's nothing wrong or bad per se about falling hard for a person right away. In fact, it's the initial infatuation that leads each person in a relationship to take to get know the other person, warts and all.

But strong feelings, no matter how consuming, are not a good measure of long-term compatibility or the healthiness of a relationship. Intensity and intimacy-turned-love are not the same things, although I think we all tend to confuse the two, especially when we're navigating our first adult relationships, as you're doing now.

Ultimately, falling in love tell us very, very little about whether a person or relationship is good or bad for us. Nor does it really matter whether a person calls it "love." Love means different things to different people, and the word itself has no objective definition. All you can really say is that if you FEEL like you're in love, well, then, you're in love--no matter what anyone tells you, or when you feel that way. The heart wants what it wants

And that what you're learning by staying relatively open and inquisitive, and trying on a lot of guys for size, so to speak, until you find one that fits. And that is all you can really ask of yourself at 23.
posted by BadgerDoctor at 9:21 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

Plan this ahead of time: next time a man says something ridiculous like he loves you at first sight or he wants to marry you after knowing you for a couple of days, you're going to laugh at him and then move on to more realistic conversation topics. These are ridiculous statements that aren't to be taken seriously. So let him know that. As motsque said, you need to do some honest communication here.
posted by John Cohen at 9:35 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Men do this to me too and I am the furthest thing from needy or clingy. My conclusion: I am just that awesome! Feedback from friends and family on this revelation: hysterical laughter and assurances that I'm not, its just that all these guys are looking for a woman to take care of them and I have my shit together and seem like a good candidate. Aka: "stop dating people who kiss your ass". Lesson learned: other people often have better perspective on these things than you do. If you can't check yourself let your Mom and some trusted girlfriends help you out.
posted by fshgrl at 10:54 AM on November 7, 2011 [9 favorites]

Eta: I'm not into this at all and generally break things off once they enter the "i looooveee you" stage. So about 2 weeks in basically. Literally dozens of times. You do get used to that level of attention though and normal guys might seem like they're not interested. You gave to recalibrate.
posted by fshgrl at 10:56 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Here's some stuff on future-faking and fast-fowarding - they are quite dangerous behaviours, because they are so flattering, and because it seems unreasonable to question someone who seemingly got to where you want to be, but just happened to do so faster than you. But the end-result is almost invariably heart-ache.

I think people future-fake for a variety of reasons:

1. Some are really into the day-dreamy aspect of things (at least relationship-wise). These people are relatively inoffensive, but cannot be taken too seriously because their day-dreams lack genuine substance. They don't actually think hard about what it would mean, being with you for the rest of their lives day-in, day-out, and having to assume responsibility for being part of a couple, or even just planning and going on a vacation together. No, they are enchanted, in the abstract, by the idea of "oh, together forever!" cause they are currently besotted with you and that is their current impulse.

2. Some want to get something from you - sex, an ego-stroke, a thrill etc, and instinctively know they have a higher chance of success if they demonstrate their seriousness and their "love" in such a cost-free way (cause really, anyone can tell you anything about the amazing stuff they will do for you/with you in the future. Costs me nothing to promis you a mansion in Beverly Hills - future-faking in a relationship is at the same level, really). This can be done consciously (as with your married guy) or unconsciously (some people are very good at leading a double life internally, where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing or thinking).

3. Some want to make sure they get carte blanche in the present by dangling a sparkly, if hazy future in front of your eyes. You get angry because they keep cancelling, or always plan things taking only their own convenience into account, make promises and then renege on them, etc., you get it - that's OK, cause you'll be married one day, and then it won't matter any more. And as perverse as this thinking is in the first place, even if there were some truth to it, it frequently works. Not only that, but you (generic you) will take it upon yourself to make their excuses for them - they blow you off four times in a row, you start telling yourself some story about "busy at work" or god knows what. They segue from fulfilling your every wish before you even have time to become aware of it to not taking their eye off the computer screen or TV even if you are half-dying next to them, and you find some excuse re. hard day at work, or even blame your own inability to communicate more clearly. They clearly prepare the cheat, or have already cheated, you rationalise it, telling yourself that of course they acted out and got cold feet, after all, they were so serious about you so soon that they needed the freak-out period before settling with you. Again, you get the picture. The idea is that any piece of crap they pull in the present pales as compared to the wonderful stuff they will do in the future and passes unnoticed. This tends to be done unconsciously.

4. Some people tell these things as much for their benefit as for yours. Maybe because they have overly romanticised and unrealistic ideas of what courtship is (and for the first couple of months you are still essentially only one notch up from the courtship period), and they feel it would be unbecoming and far too prosaic to not feel really intensly, or to not pretend to have formed a "you and I forever" unit at first sight (sometimes "you and I forever against all odds/the whole world" a la Bonnie and Clyde) etc. Or maybe they are afraid they will never find that special someone, and if they cranck it up right from the get-go they hope they will transform you into that someone by sheer force of will.

5. Some people really like you, but consider themselves out of your league, so try to impress you with their love and devotion and with how proactive they are about your future. Generally though, this is so unnatural in the very early days of a relationship that it takes great effort to maintain it - so after a while they exhaust themselves and it all fizzles out.

There are others, but what is true of every one of these is that none is about you (again, generic you) as a person other than in the very general sense that all of these people have set their sight on you.

Like most people mentioned above, I too have had relationships with such people (the classification above is from my own experience, and some classes refer to more than one person. So you're really not a slow learner compared to me). After a while, you come to recognize the patterns. For one, anyone who just "knows" that you are the One before even being in a relationship with you and when they barely know you - well, they could seem all sorts of wonderful, and you should still get the heck out, cause at the very least they have big time personal issues. There are plenty of these (as well as the future fakers in the early days of a relationship), and I've had my fair share - the best was this guy I had just met who proceded to bombard me with professions of undying love for a few days and then, exasperated that he was getting nowhere with it told me I might as well at least sleep with him, cause soon I was gonna lose my youth and beauty and I have to make the best of the time that I have left. I almost feel affection for the man.

In conclusion, to answer this: What is it about my approach to relationships that causes this to happen? I think the only difference between you and someone who doesn't have relationships in which this happens is that you are only now learning that this is a thing, and that it is best avoided. Many of us have such people in our past, but have learned to not give them the time of day any more (mostly), or to slow things down when we think we are with a good man who is getting ahead of himself.
posted by miorita at 11:20 AM on November 7, 2011 [14 favorites]

Oh god. I could have written this post a few months ago. I dated a guy for about 6 weeks who claimed he loved me and tried to push my emotions. That fizzled out rather quickly because after taking a breath and giving myself some space I realized that he wasn't in love with me, he was in love with being in a 'relationship'. A prime example of this was when he had flowers sent to my work. Anyone who actually knows me knows how much I HATE getting flowers at work, even on Valentine's Day because I find it ridiculously imposing and cliche. He wasn't sending me flowers, he was sending the idea of what he's supposed to be doing in a relationship flowers. This made me feel pretty horrible actually, like he didn't understand and value the person I am and that he was trying to mash me into a mold. That's when I pulled the ripcord - no one deserves to be mashed into a mold!

As a result, an early warning sign that I've recently become in-tune with is if I start getting easily annoyed at the dude I'm dating, then he's doing something creepy. This isn't just "will you please stop doing XYZ, it's obnoxious"-level of annoyance. It's more like GET ME OUT OF HERE AND AWAY FROM YOU NOW-level of annoyance.

I'd honestly recommend taking a step back, and I know it's tough, especially when the initial emotional high/the limerance is so strong. But seriously. Try not to go from zero to 800mph or it will fizzle out just as quickly as it started, I'm learning. Really ask them some honest questions and try to get an idea of how secure they are with themselves. Are they OK with being alone? Single? What about their quirks/interests/hobbies as a single person? I've found that meeting people who are OK with being by themselves and are secure enough to exist outside of a relationship are actually the datable guys. They're the ones who are worth pursuing because they're just as busy at being awesome on their own as you are. It's the insecure ones who have a NEED to be in a relationship and who are afraid to be alone that you should avoid.
posted by floweredfish at 11:21 AM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

After reading the recent threads about child abuse, I am still feeling overwhelmed with how many here shared; you are not alone in having gone through a very difficult childhood. I did not experience what you must have, and I can't presume ro know the ways it may have affected you, but I can tell you the ways I have seen it affect my own friend, who experienced repeated sexual abuse, and maybe that will help.

She has trouble saying no, even when most of us wouldn't give it a second thought. She'd been manipulated, very early on, to feel like she had to do what she was told to do, even if the demand was inappropriate or unhealthy, so she often puts up with treatment she shouldn't, because she wants to please.

This makes her, naturally, very appealing to men who first meet her, because she always seems to like the same things they like, and want to do just what they do. She puts extraordinary significance on little things, too, and sees them as proof that Fate has brought her together with someone and they are Meant to Be--she once swore to me that it was obvious she and her current guy were 'soulmates' because they both liked Pinky and the Brain.

There's nothing wrong with optimism in a new relarionship, of course! But she is so in love with, basically, the idea of being in love, the fairy tale of finding Prince Charming, that she is blind to all the obvious red flags that are clearly there, too. She makes the guy into someone he isn't, decides he is Mr. Right when she is infatuated--but once the infatuation wears off, she wonders what she ever saw in him.

That sounds like, maybe, what you are doing.

Did you meet these men online, by the way? My friend just LOVED chat rooms. She needed that instant validation that she was attractive and men wanted her; if they competed for her attention, that was even more gratifying.

So, here she is, a girl who is eager to please, has trouble with boundaries, and puts way too much emphasis on shallow connections--well, she got trolled a lot. A LOT.

I tried to show her that this wasn't healthy, that it was better for her to be more discerning in the beginning to save herself heartache later. Don't you think this is going too fast? Do you really believe all these stories he's telling you? You know you can always log off, get off the site, not reply, turn off the computer, right? Why did you agree to meet this guy?

So maybe you should look at what you want, long-term. Right now, I think you are trying to be the Perfect Girlfriend, and maybe you are also projecting your fantasies onto these men, thinking they are all Mr. Right, and getting too serious too fast. Maybe you see emotional drama as proof that they want you instead of a big red flag that they have issues you might not want to take on.

What's more, by not being more discerning and being afraid to say no, you are denying yourself the chance to find someone who loves you for who you really are. You are just gong to keep ending up with selfish men, attracted to your willingness to sacrifice your happiness for theirs.
posted by misha at 11:41 AM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I could have written this post. I'm 28 but I've had the exact same problem with boyfriends.

I don't know if you do this but part of the problem is I tend to mirror the feelings a bit of whomever I'm dating. So if he's intensely infatuated with me, I'll start to convince myself that I feel the same way, which I'm sure encourages him to act even crazier. Then I'll usually have a moment of, "wait a second, what am I doing, this isn't healthy." But by then I'm already invested and it's hard to stop the impending train wreck.

A lot of people will tell you men who do this are manipulators or sociopaths or narcissists or whatever buzz pathology is making the rounds, but in my experience these guys are too numerous and oblivious to be pathological. I think they actually believe their bullshit in the moment. It's pretty rare to meet someone who is manipulative in a conscious, calculating way. Often these guys are OK people who are just immature, inexperienced, impulsive or irresponsible with their feelings. Usually a bit selfish as well. The problem is if you invest in them, they'll fizzle on you fall off the pedestal. But you already knew that.

It's possible you attract guys like this partly because you're rather emotional yourself. (I'm possibly projecting a bit here because I know this is why I do.) So I'd encourage you to be more proactive about placing yourself in situations where you'll find different men, places to which you might not naturally be drawn. If you can avoid dating guys who are really young, inexperienced or work in creative professions -- they tend to be more emotional and flighty.
posted by timsneezed at 12:07 PM on November 7, 2011 [11 favorites]

When guys act like that, I actually find it kind of offensive...oh, you want to marry me, but you don't even fucking know me! Like, at all! We met LAST WEEK! I also think showy claims like "I will take you to Paris next month" are cheesy- I met a guy like this and to be honest, I didn't think he was doing it to be manipulative or anything like that, I think he was just sort of inexperienced and somewhere along the way someone told him women like these sort of romantic offers.

I would say to consider the types of behaviors you mentioned as red flags, and as mentioned above, make an effort to find a guy you like, not a guy who likes you, and don't write off more subtle (normal) guys as uninterested. Anyone worth dating will take the time to get to know you as a person before professing their enduring love.
posted by emd3737 at 1:06 PM on November 7, 2011

The cliched guy is a committment-phobe, but a lot of guys are committment-philes and just looooove being committed, doesn't matter to whom.

IME, the gangbuster guys usually turn out to be commitment phobes too -- they just show their cards later.

If being in a relationship is what's important to them ultimately the partner they choose to be with is disposable/easily replaceable.
posted by timsneezed at 2:35 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, given your age and level of experience, I wouldn't assume there's anything seriously wrong with either you or the guys in question. I think it's just a matter of both parties getting carried away.

And, equally appropriately to your age and level of experience, you're now going: wait, what?

I can tell you a very procedural way of putting on the brakes and taking your time. For the first month, you see each other once a week. The second month, twice a week. The third month, three times a week. The fourth month, four times a week and so on. Limit phone calls to 10 minutes or so, IMs/text-based conversations to 20-30 minutes (allows for typing time).

Scream! Gasp! Shock! That's The Rules! Rules is manipulation, twee, whatever, etc.

Well, maybe, but if you're becoming aware of a pattern of getting carried away it helps to have some processes to follow instead of your own impulses, which aren't really working for you right now. You'll also have the excitement and anticipation of waiting to see each other, so it's not like you'll be missing out.

If a guy strenuously objects to this and tries to insist that true love is all "Hi, what's your name? Move in!" then you have some red flags to inspect, because a sane person will actually be able to stand waiting a few days to see you. This is what will differentiate gung-ho enthusiasm from actual creepdom, so pay attention.
posted by tel3path at 2:43 PM on November 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

I can tell you a very procedural way of putting on the brakes and taking your time. For the first month, you see each other once a week. The second month, twice a week. The third month, three times a week. The fourth month, four times a week and so on. Limit phone calls to 10 minutes or so, IMs/text-based conversations to 20-30 minutes (allows for typing time).

I think she wants to filter (or otherwise deal with) the guys who are extremely eager/desperate to break down all boundaries from the very beginning. That doesn't mean it's a good idea to go to the opposite extreme and create rigid boundaries that prevent things from advancing at a healthy, mutual pace. So yes, it is manipulative, and a man would have to be desperate to go along with it.
posted by John Cohen at 3:27 PM on November 7, 2011

I don't agree that it's manipulative. I have a job to do and a life to take care of. I think once a week is plenty of time to allocate to a stranger that I've only known for less than a month, especially if I know from experience that I'm in danger of leading them on by getting too close too fast. If a guy isn't rearranging his schedule to make me top priority after knowing him for a couple of weeks, I think it's completely sane of me to go along with that - not "desperate" at all.
posted by tel3path at 3:38 PM on November 7, 2011

"the only consistent factor in all of my relationships is me."

Congratulations on having the maturity to realize this. Most people don't seem to figure that sort of thing out. You're already on the right track, and that's great!

"I'm beginning to wonder if I give off some kind of needy distress vibe which causes these men to come on really strong."

I think it's probably more a case of you seeking out, or at the very least choosing, people who desperately need someone to love them. I know a wonderful woman who moves from disaster to disaster, relationship wise, because she wants love. I think we all want love. But she REALLY REALLY WANTS IT WANTS IT WANTS IT TO HAPPEN NOW. And she treats every first date as if he could be the one. Without realize it, she speeds up the dating process.

In your case, I'd suspect you either seek out people who are desperate, or you settle for people who aren't in your league... which could cause them to think "OMG! She's awesome! Must make her mine forever!"

"I had a (very) difficult childhood and worry that my ability to form healthy relationships has suffered as a consequence."

This confirms my other thoughts, but again, since you recognize it, you're on the right track. And that's great!

"What is it about my approach to relationships that causes this to happen? How can I take a step back and be a little more objective during the early days of seeing someone?"

Learn to slow down the dating process and really get to know someone before turning a friendship into dating, or before letting things become sexual. Take it slow and rediscover the fun of getting to know someone as a person rather than as a date. If you do, you'll find that your dating experiences will be more meaningful because the connection with your date will be based on something more concrete.

Best of luck!!!
posted by 2oh1 at 4:19 PM on November 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

My husband was like that when he first approached me. He was my first very serious relationship and it worked! So this does happen.

However I did tell him that I need time and I actually asked him how could he feel so strong in such a short time. He said he just knew and he knew exactly what he wanted in his life.

He did slow things down and match up with my progress and it wasn't a problem at all.
But this is not the case for a lot of people, a lot of them don't know what they want and guys do tend to have this rush of passion when they just discover a perfect lady. They might not be lying, it's just they change their mind, or they become unsure later.

I think you are a very reasonable person and there is nothing wrong you have done. It's better to end a wrong relationship quickly than drowning in an awkward situation for too long.

Hope you will find your Mr. Right soon.
posted by artofgiving at 11:04 PM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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