Duck, duck, duck, goose
November 23, 2011 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Online dating advice: when they're all pretty good, how do I pick out the great ones?

I'm a woman in my early 30s. I've gone on about 100 online first-dates over the past 6 years, and had great relationships with 3 men I met online, ranging in length from months to years. I'd ideally like to get married in the next few years, so I'm looking for a stable, loving relationship with a very compatible partner.

All of my online dates have been good, probably because my profile & pics represent me accurately, I only agree to meet interesting-seeming guys, and I love connecting with new people so it's very easy for me to smooth over any awkwardness. Standard date is a light meal, maybe followed by a couple of drinks; conversation flows pretty well, good body language, nice hug goodnight, usually no kiss. The last three guys I've dated were the guys who somehow made a big impression- either because we had a crazy coincidental moment of deep connection, or just because they were confident/interested enough to flirt well, smooch me on the first date, and call the next day. Those all worked out pretty well and I'm glad we dated.

But there were a lot of nice, cute guys who I'd have considered dating more, but there was no huge spark, and they didn't go for the first-date kiss, so when they wanted to keep dating, I let things trail off because eventually another guy grabbed my attention more vigorously.

I like mellow, quietly confident guys who are subtly funny. This type of guy doesn't always make a big first impression, and often they're not "funny" until I get to know them. So it's hard for me to tell the great guys from the good guys, which means the guys I end up dating are the ones who choose ME, rather than me choosing them. No regrets, but right now I have more potential dates than free nights... and I'd like to take things slower physically and maybe try to avoid kissing on the first date, too. So I want to give myself some clearly articulated reasons for saying yes to second and third dates. On any given night I could go for a second/third date, or I could meet an intriguing new guy. How do I decide? how to find the great guys among the many good guys?

I've considered the following criteria:

- He makes me laugh (but subtle humor can be slow to develop, and besides, my two funniest exes were NOT funny on our first date)
- I'm attracted to him (but they're all reasonably attractive or I wouldn't meet them, so this is too broad)
- He's interesting (but almost everyone is interesting if you ask the right questions, plus introverts get better with time)
- Superficial stuff, like he paid for the date, has a decent car, prestigious job, etc (but I don't actually want these to be my criteria)
- He's warm and open, tells me straight-up that he likes me (this is great, but discriminates against introverts)
- He says things that surprise me or make me think new thoughts (this is rare!)
- He shows enthusiasm by quickly asking me out again (this one I'm cool with, although it probably also discriminates against introverts)

What other criteria could I use?
Introverted men, I'm especially curious to hear how you'd want to be selected.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
- He says things that surprise me or make me think new thoughts (this is rare!)

followed immediately by

- I'm attracted to him (but they're all reasonably attractive or I wouldn't meet them, so this is too broad)
posted by michaelh at 7:54 AM on November 23, 2011

I should clarify that's how I would want to be selected. I don't really know how you can test quickly for niceness etc. for something that by definition is drawn out more slowly.
posted by michaelh at 7:56 AM on November 23, 2011

-I feel a deeper connection to him.
-I feel comfortable around him.
-I feel like myself around him.

This is the criteria you used for your longer relationships, and I think it's a good one. I've been on plenty of dates with interesting guys from online, and I kept dating a few who fit all other criteria but who there was no spark with. I recently started dating a guy through work (who I rarely actually work with) because when we met, there was a spark. The three criteria I listed are the three things different between him and the other guys I've dated that make me feel like he has relationship potential.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:59 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here's the thing; I just don't think you can tell much of anything beyond the basic level of attraction (and even that changes) after one date. First dates are good for screening out people who turn you off for whatever reason, but not much more. If someone intrigues you, you should follow up with a second or third date to give it a chance to warm up. Right now it sounds like you're letting the loudest, shiniest guy get all your attention, only to move along moments later. You're not really getting to know anyone that way. At some point you just need to choose a couple and start going for depth.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:59 AM on November 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

This is kind of corny, but part of the criteria I used when I was in a similar situation is how much/how long I was smiling after the date -- I mean, I had a lot of great dates with great guys, but the super-awesome guys would leave me grinning like a goofball whether they were introverted or not. It was as if some kind of instinct told me this person was fabulous/worth getting to know, and that instinct played out on my face. YMMV, though.
posted by superlibby at 8:00 AM on November 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

This list can be very helpful, because in the event that you meet the right person, you won't care about it anymore and throw it out the window.

To put it another way, you can make a big list of reasons why your favorite food is your favorite food -- but ultimately, it's your favorite food because it just... is.
posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night at 8:02 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

How about agreeing to a second date as long as there is nothing that actively turns you off about them, in the first date?

If this still leaves you with too many guys for the number of free nights you have, then just pick the guys you like the most. This is a non-scientific process, no set of criteria other than your feelings can be a reliable guide.

The problem with establishing up-front the criteria by which you select is that these are different human beings, and human beings almost always evade the neat criteria we try to impose on them.

There's an adage about the jury selection process that you're not looking for good jurors, you're looking to eliminate bad jurors. Maybe your approach your first dates by not looking for reasons TO date someone further, but looking for reasons NOT TO date them further? Then that will give the slow-bloomers time to shine.
posted by jayder at 8:07 AM on November 23, 2011

You basically get three pieces of information on a first date that you can (more-or-less) rely on:

Their appearance/hygiene/style.
Their obvious-creep factor.
Their ability to keep your remotely interested.

...and that's about it. Even the supercifical stuff is up for grabs. The glamorous job can be constantly in danger of disappearing and the fancy car can be a lease he can't afford and paying for dinner an expense he can't justify.

Saying "yes" to the second and third date should, honestly, be as simple as "am I capable of being physically attracted to this person", "does anything really creep me out about this person" and "am I not bored out of my skull by this person." That's it. You can't know dick about a person through one conversation, and that's what a first date boils down to: one somewhat awkward conversation and possibly some making out. You can find out if someone is deathly boring through that, but you'll never have a reliable metric to find out if they're genuinely interesting. Especially if they're being guarded to not creep you out, which is a good first date tactic.
posted by griphus at 8:09 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Or what slow graffiti said.
posted by jayder at 8:09 AM on November 23, 2011

I'm an introverted man and have used online dating a lot. I don't know which criteria you should use. However, a few points:

- I completely disagree with griphus; you can learn a lot on a first date. There's nothing magical about a second or third date so that you need to wait until those happen until you can start forming a real impression. There's no need to automatically go on a second date just because he meets griphus's minimal criteria (acceptable hygiene, etc.).

- If you want to reject men because they didn't initiate a kiss on the first date, that's up to you, but since you specifically asked for the views of introverted men: you would automatically filter out me. I feel no need to rush the intimacy level with someone I'm meeting for the first time, and if this means I'm filtering out women who insist on that, that's OK with me. I have enough options even if I limit myself to women who don't have a mindset of "The man must initiate everything, and fast!" Your criteria make it sound like you want to select a man who's aggressive, initiates everything, and does so at the soonest possible opportunity. Again, if that's your preference, that's up to you, but then I don't understand how that's compatible with what you're said about the kinds of men you actually like.

- There's something odd about your list of criteria. It's as if you were trying to include all your real reasons for being attracted to someone but also some more "conventional" reasons (with a disclaimer saying those aren't your real reasons). Just focus on your real reasons. If those are finding someone interesting and physically attractive, there you go. If your complaint about those criteria is that you're meeting so many men who fit them that you can't choose, well, that's a pretty good "problem" to have on your hands! But if you do need to filter out more people, why not apply the "says things that make me think new thoughts" criterion? That sounds as good as anything else.
posted by John Cohen at 8:27 AM on November 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

so when they wanted to keep dating, I let things trail off because eventually another guy grabbed my attention more vigorously.

You seem to be engaging in premature monogamy. When they are all pretty good, you keep dating all of them until one becomes great and then you see if he'd like to only date each other. If he doesn't, keep dating everyone who's interesting. In other words, you need to not discard the potentials who are maybe hot on the slow boil.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:32 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think the only criteria that actually matters is "am I happy when I'm with this person?" It's a catch-all that lets you gauge the overall suitability of different people, all of whom have diverse characteristics.

Not everyone will make you happy in the same way, and that's ok. But fundamentally, you need to look at the other person and go "damn, I am happy when I'm around you."
posted by modernnomad at 8:38 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mostly it'll just happen and you'll be like "oh yeah, this guy's the right one!" and you might not be able to articulate exactly why. It probably will take several dates, so it's a good idea to give the fellow a couple tries before deciding you want to continue.

Some things worth considering, though:

- Does he treat other people well? Does he speak well of others?
- Are you comfortable disagreeing with him or telling him no?
- Do you have similar/compatible life goals? Will you even be in the same town five years from now?
- Does he take care of himself? Not in the sense of "does he work out and dress well" but is he reasonably responsible with his health/money/home?
- Is his style of communication and planning compatible with yours?
- Do your conversations feel like an equal exchange, or is one of you carrying them? (If he's particularly introverted, this will take at least a couple days to figure out.)
- Are you on the same page regarding politics and religion (or can you agree to disagree)?

Ultimately, you're not looking for the best conversationalist or the most charming guy; you want to find the person you can comfortably and happily share the boring moments with, too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:57 AM on November 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Too many first dates, is the problem, and you seem to be slightly addicted to the buzz and excitement of it, at the expense of all the nice guys you let things trail off with even though they like you and you like them, or could. Limit first dates to one every two weeks (or so) and make the question "second date, yes or no?" instead of "second date, yes or no, or else another first date?" and you will find yourself on a lot more second dates, many of which might get you somewhere. Give these guys more of a chance, in other words. And don't worry about criteria and scoring; your gut knows this stuff already anyway.
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:02 AM on November 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

While you can learn a lot on a first date, you can't learn it all. And to be honest, some guys(girls to) are just downright nervous and not able to be themselves until date 2, maybe even date 3 or 4. Bottom line, if you like the guy and you see some possibility but aren't feeling an extreme spark, give them another shot or 2. You don't have to decide on date 1 whether you're going to marry the guy. Some guys make great first impressions, but down the road their true colors come through and they aren't always the brightest. Others are like fine wines...they get better with time. Be carefull not to get into the "process" of online dating so much that you just wanna keep doing it because you think there's someone better out there. Maybe there is, but maybe the guy you just went out with is the one and you'll see it soon.
posted by ljs30 at 11:09 AM on November 23, 2011

Is he nice to waiters, bartenders, cashiers, car wash attendants, et al? All other things being equal, the answer for your second date guys should be an emphatic yes.
posted by milk white peacock at 11:34 AM on November 23, 2011

The numbers you relate do sound like a lot of dates, something of a revolving-door approach--"dazzle me on the first date and do as I want or sayanora. Next!"

You seem to realize that in any serious sense, someone going for some smooching at the end of a first date or not is less than trivial.

Independent of introversion, my view of first dates has always been, when in doubt, be a gentleman.

Agreed with someone's view: Fewer first dates, more second dates.

By the way, can't count the happy, long-term couples who weren't anywhere near enraptured and feeling gooey each other on the first date.
posted by ambient2 at 11:40 AM on November 23, 2011

One thing you might consider with online dating is what happened in the lead up to your first date. You don't say much about the process of picking out which people you chose to go on first dates with - did you message a lot before you met up? or did you just jump to first date mode after one or two messages?

As an introvert, I'm a lot more comfortable writing than I am talking, and I think having a week or two of messaging back and forth helped my SO decide I was awesome enough to meet up with in person.

I guess what I'm saying is to consider the entire corpus of your interaction, not just the dates. Also, just because you went on a date, doesn't mean that you need to stop writing to each other. Maybe that will help the introverts get a little more comfortable communicating with you.
posted by baniak at 11:46 AM on November 23, 2011

Please be careful of you (or your dates) using introverted as shorthand for not socially acceptable or even adept. That's not really what the term means. Introverted does not mean unable to talk, grumpy or rude to people. If your date is any of those things and brushes it off as "I'm an introvert." well, they might be, but the behavior they're exhibiting is just jerkish.

I used to have a hell of a time being funny or demonstrating my real personality until I knew someone pretty well. I've worked really hard to get over those insecurities (which it was for me, I was worried about being judged) so it's not a pre-req in an introvert.

It sounds like you want someone thoughtful and kind. Focus on those in the first date. How do they talk about their family? Do they harp on things that have gone wrong in their life or brush off even the really bad stuff as "That was unfortunate, but I'm still fine." I've learned that someone who views past experiences negatively or as if nothing is their own fault, is not a person I want to spend time with.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:33 PM on November 23, 2011

Is he nice to waiters, bartenders, cashiers, car wash attendants, et al? All other things being equal, the answer for your second date guys should be an emphatic yes.

Since everyone knows about this, it isn't an effective criterion.
posted by John Cohen at 12:58 PM on November 23, 2011

A couple people have touched on this and I agree -- you're doing it wrong. First dates and all the guys are bright and shiny and new, and you're getting caught in that.

If you have a good first date and would like to see the guy again, go on a second, and so on. Prioritize second dates over first dates. You're getting stuck on having too many options and being unable to choose.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:59 PM on November 23, 2011

Who has the most stellar character? Looks, personality, and common interests are not half as important as a person's character. How does he talk about the other women in his life? Does he treat them with dignity? Does he have integrity? Does he keep his promises? Determining these things are key and may take more than one date.
posted by devymetal at 6:21 PM on November 23, 2011

« Older Some questions about getting a web app developed   |   Better living through audio Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.