How do I learn to prefer the real deal?
December 13, 2011 5:07 PM   Subscribe

I find myself persistently drawn to elusive, short-term prospects rather than actual Good Real People. It's frustrating and ultimately unfulfilling, and so I'm curious to hear from anyone who made the jump from Silly to Real, and how that transition unfolded, and what (if anything) you did to help it along.

For the past few months I've been dating this woman, a friend of mine. It's still low-key and noncommittal, but very nice, caring, etc -- she's a good person, we like each other, we see eye to eye. Meanwhile, though, I find myself getting into ambiguous extended flirty situations -- first with one, and then now a different one, and presumably more to come, with all the usual nonsense (should I text? what does this signal indicate? etc). It's exhausting and ultimately unfulfilling -- but still I find myself quickly sucked in each time. It's not even that I'm chasing sex or… I don't even know what I'm chasing, just the whole dance, the feedback, who knows.

The question is not whether this woman I'm dating is The One; it's too soon to say, of course, and anyway that's not my question here -- she's certainly a better prospect than these random sparkly faces. I'm also not asking whether these other things are a betrayal of our relationship; I certainly don't feel great about them, but we haven't declared any exclusivity. I'm just frustrated with myself for falling back into these patterns, for not having grown past them (I'm early 30s), for being drawn to these elusive situations rather than a living, breathing, present individual.

So: I'm curious to hear from anyone who made the jump from Silly to Real, and how that transition unfolded, and what (if anything) you did to help it along.
posted by snackattack to Human Relations (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure I understand the distinction you're making. Is there some reason to believe that someone you flirt with extensively can't become a real relationship?

I think that if there's something you don't like about the way your relationships are unfolding, it might help to look at what you're doing differently in the ones that work differently. I'm not in any way saying that you're doing anything wrong. But if you're describing two people, one you're "dating" and the other you're "getting into ambiguous extended flirty situations" with, my first question is, why don't you date the latter woman? If you want to date someone, the way to make that happen is to ask her whether she'd like to go on a date with you. Then she either says yes or no, and the ambiguity is gone. If the ambiguity crops back up, you can ask another direct question or make another clear request to clear it up.

Ultimately, dating is always going to be a little confusing and dramatic, because many of our strongest feelings are involved. That's true whether you're 13 or 30 or 65. But you can cut down the drama some by being forthright with people and making your wants and needs and feelings clear. If you don't like the dance, stop dancing. You can even do that with women with sparkly faces. And it'll feel much better than sitting around wondering if she'll text you.
posted by decathecting at 5:16 PM on December 13, 2011

How are you feeling about yourself?

I think flirtation with someone new implies a clean slate, self-wise, and the potential to see yourself reflected back as someone awesome and exciting. Flirting with an ex lets you return to an earlier self, maybe one you miss.

Flirting with your current?...not much fun if you're not thrilled with who you are right now. You might not respect her for liking you as you are. You might resent that she's happy with you.

Maybe you're hoping someone new will discover something awesome about you that you haven't yet discovered yourself.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:37 PM on December 13, 2011 [7 favorites]

I think this is basically a question of maturity. You could get sucked into pursuing fantasy crushes, ambiguous flirtations and unavailable women for the next few decades if you don't snap out of it.

Maybe you're macking too far above your station looks-wise, maybe you only like women who are too old or too young for you, maybe you seek drama or emotional unavailability, maybe you're looking for someone to complete you, maybe you're seeking a partner with all the qualities you wish you had... none of these will serve you well.

Shutting down your other options in favor of liking one person who likes you back is hard at first, but when you realize the alternative is being stuck in Peter Pan-land, it becomes a more attractive option.

Also, if you keep chasing after the next best thing, you'll never be at peace. Everyone settles somewhat in relationships, it just depends on what you truly need and can get vs. want. Also, in my experience, the vast majority of romantic relationship veer to one side of either passion OR security-- you can't have both in equal measure, though obviously neither quality should be severely lacking.

Looking for a woman who is both your best friend and a red-hot lover as well as beautiful, intelligent, generous, kind but keeps you on your toes, totally confident yet vulnerable, awesome career, high status but low-maintenance, sexy AND sweet is a fantasy that will keep you on the look-out FOREVER.

Decide to love and commit to someone completely (your current "friend" or someone else you think you could love, and who could love you back), and then just do it.
posted by devymetal at 6:34 AM on December 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

And the way I came to this conclusion in my own life was to date a person who loves me more than I love him, and is all action and few words, for once.
posted by devymetal at 7:14 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

You say you're not asking if getting in these flirty situations is a betrayal of your relationship (and you say: we haven't declared any exclusivity).
And then you say you're frustrated for falling back into these patterns and not outgrowing them.
And (I'll quote you some more) you say you're frustrated for not being drawn instead to a "living, breathing, present individual."

Look, if you want to outgrow all this you better start being open and honest.
If I were dating someone for months and found out said person had been flirting with others I would DTMF then and there. Not because of the flirting per se but because of the deceit.
Dating someone for months would come to me with the presumption of exclusivity. If this were not the case, it would need to be made very clear.
Have you made yourself clear?

Myself, I made the transition you ask about by learning something from each failed relationship and the stupid mistakes I made and the emotional compromises and learning to avoid red flags.
I learned to avoid and spot bad matches before I got too close and I learned what I truly needed and could not compromise on (because some people can give that to you and others can't but you should give them a chance to respond either way).

FWIW, I'm not sure you're dating a living, breathing, present individual rather than the idea of a "better prospect than those random sparkly faces." I mean, no one wants to be in a relationship because they're a better prospect (do they?). We want to be that sparkly face!
posted by mkdirusername at 1:27 AM on December 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

« Older Plastic glasses frames w/nose pads - not prodesign...   |   Rebelling against body mod conformity! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.