I wrote this while sitting on my thumbs
February 26, 2012 11:21 AM   Subscribe

dating filter: as a girl, how little initiation in dating is too little initiation?

24, female. Not a ton of experience Dating-with-a-capital-D. I am bad at initiating dates (with guys I've been dating for a while), and I don't know if this makes me typical, typical and annoying, or just annoying.

I'm pretty shy in general, I'm not great at initiating social occasions of any sort to be honest, even with people who are just friends unless they're my closest friends that I've known for years and years. So I guess that's the basis of the issue. (It's also partially because I'm not picky at all about plans-- I'm down with any type of food, I like almost any music, whatever, don't care that much, so I tend to let people who really care decide that stuff and I've gotten into the habit of not being an active part of planning most of the time.)

Anyway, this extends to dating. I think some of it (maybe a lot of it?) is insecurity as well-- sort of a 'huh, well, he wanted to see me like three times last week, but who knows what I did on that last date to turn him off, maybe he doesn't actually want to see me again, I better let him make the next move." I also cut my Dating-with-a-capital-D teeth on a guy who was way too busy and had a crazy, changing schedule that I didn't know and so with him this approach made sense and I think I formed bad habits.

I think it's easier in the summer when I do a lot of things outside my house (hikes, going to the beach, street festivals, free concerts, etc) that I can rope guys into, but in the winter in a northern climate with a pretty limited budget there are less opportunities to casually invite someone along to something like that under the pretense of 'hey, I want to do this, want to come along?' Also, here in the dead of winter, there's more doing-whatever-in-someones apartment, and since I have roommates and at the moment am dating a guy with his own place, if I initiate something like that I'm either inviting myself over or inviting him over to a less-ideal hanging-out apartment.

Anyway, at the moment I mostly wait for guys to get in touch with me and if I haven't seen someone in a while and I want to I send them some kind of neutral text asking about their day or telling them something funny that happened to me and then usually they ask me to hang out and mission is accomplished.

So, this more or less works for me but I worry that it makes me seem uninterested or princess-y or coy or something. I'm not sure how common this is-- I know it's pretty common for the first few dates, but what about a month or two in? is this something guys in general expect and have gotten used to (whether or not they grumble about it sometimes), or am I an outlier?

Okay, tl;dr, lots of smaller questions but this is the main one: When a girl is dating someone and is a few months in but not in a capital-R-relationship, is it real annoying to leave the ball in the guy's court the majority of the time (okay, lets be honest, probably like 80-85% of the time at present)? If so, help fix me.
posted by geegollygosh to Human Relations (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: But I think it deserves some thought as to why this is framed as "as a girl, how much...?"

I mean, yeah, I think as a society it deserves some thought, and I actually considered not framing it that way because I thought I might get this reaction, but I'm not dating in a cultural vacuum, so I think it's relevant. Maybe I'm wrong. I'd rather not totally derail the question in a debate about this, though...
posted by geegollygosh at 11:32 AM on February 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I don't know, are you even interested in these guys that you're dating? When I was dating, which was while ago to be honest, when I really dug someone I wanted to talk to them and see them and such. It wasn't "oh, hey, I guess I haven't heard from that guy, I better send him a completely neutral text message."

To answer your question 'is it real annoying to leave the ball in the guy's court' I think that alot of people don't want to feel like they are doing all of the work, especially after the relationship is somewhat established. It just seems like you aren't interested. For more insight, read the countless AskMes from the other side of the fence.
posted by cabingirl at 11:35 AM on February 26, 2012

Best answer: If you're a few months in, you can explain exactly what you said here to your partner. "I like doing almost anything but find it hard to initiate. That doesn't mean I don't want to do things! Are you okay with this or can I work on it somehow with you?"

I spent this weekend waiting for a girl to ask me on date #3 actually so I do like to know they're interested. I feel pretty lame if they never ask me to do anything. I can be like the guy version of you though.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:36 AM on February 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

It sees to me like you are having a small problem with date pacing.

Here is what I do. I set up a "date time" of sorts with the guy that generally fits both of our schedules. Say, every Saturday at 5:00pm. This way:

1) Each party has ample time to adjust their schedules accordingly and make appropriate long term plans.

2) A pace is set. Not too slow but not too fast.

This has helped me a ton. If a guy starts bailing on dates, then I am not left wondering if he has a good reason or not. He knew when the dates were going to be for long enough to adjust his schedule appropriately and he had a hand in picking a time that would work for him. So the "oh no! I was so busy the last three Saturdays! I didn't know!/forgot!/was confused!" excuses don't hold much water. It lets me see what is a rare issue for a usually dependable guy versus a lack of interest from a flaky guy.


Set a reasonable standard (that you both agree upon) and see how frequently they hold up their end of the bargain. This will give you both a wealth of information about each other and will also help bring you both some solidarity.
posted by Shouraku at 11:37 AM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know, are you even interested in these guys that you're dating? When I was dating, which was while ago to be honest, when I really dug someone I wanted to talk to them and see them and such. It wasn't "oh, hey, I guess I haven't heard from that guy, I better send him a completely neutral text message."

I also had a lot of problems with this. I wasn't interested at all but was trying to force myself to be.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:38 AM on February 26, 2012

When you see them, talk about movies coming out soon or things that you both might be interested in checking out, that gives you an in to suggest "Did you want to go (insert movie you both said sounded good) when it comes out this weekend?" thus setting up your next date before you say goodnight.

I've always thought it was silly having to wait around after a date to find out if they wanna see you again. If things are going well, there's nothing awkward about suggesting the next one if you're both interested.

Other suggestions... you could check out local bands together, there's usually a community newspaper or magazine that tells where you can find free or cheap shows (usually at bars) as well as other local events that might be interesting.
posted by myShanon at 11:41 AM on February 26, 2012

I think that given several months of "hanging out" out or dating, you can suggest activities with your male friend and suggest you engage on the activity at his place.

As someone who is regularly the "cruise director" for her social network, yes, it can be annoying if someone never initiates activities. Initiators also get uncertain & self-conscious about making plans. If you want to see someone, you should suggest a meeting so that they lnownit.

Art galleries, community events, winter hiking & walking are all free/cheap options you could suggest.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 12:02 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, here in the dead of winter, there's more doing-whatever-in-someones apartment, and since I have roommates and at the moment am dating a guy with his own place, if I initiate something like that I'm either inviting myself over or inviting him over to a less-ideal hanging-out apartment.

I have an idea for this part. You could say "hey, wanna hang out tonight?" And if he says yes, then you say "my place or yours?"
posted by cairdeas at 12:06 PM on February 26, 2012

Best answer: Everyone's different. As a guy who is me and not some other guy, I understand that guys generally initiate and take the early lead. But if it's a few months in and I'm doing most of the initiating conversation and nearly all of the making plans, and you're not expressing that you want to see me... yeah, I'd start to wonder about that. I don't want to date someone who doesn't want to date me.

Like cairdeas suggests, you can leave the ball in my court about details, such as whose place I'd rather hang out at. Especially given your comfort level right now, you could even expand that. "We should do something Friday. Any ideas?" I don't care so much whether you have specific date ideas (although that would be great), but if the closest you come to saying "I want to see you" is "I just had an awesome lunch at Chipotle," eventually that would be a problem.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:17 PM on February 26, 2012

Best answer: I meant to also mention:

Yes, the primary issue here is that eventually it will seem like you're just not that into the guy. But an important secondary issue is that it is fun when people have things they want to do and see. People with ideas and preferences are more interesting than people without.

"I want to see you" would be a good step. "I want to see Hunger Games with you" would be a better step.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:22 PM on February 26, 2012

Best answer: I think what really matters is how enthusiastic you are when someone else initiates. If you hedge and waffle and say, well, I don't know... and then you don't get back to them about some crucial detail and you talk about getting together but you just kinda let things slide... that's communicating disinterest all right.

But if you say, oh yes, great idea! When and where? I'm free on X, Y and Z. I heard there's a great band playing at Q. Or we could R. What do you think? It will be so great to see you! and then you show up when and where you said you would, and you keep them appropriately informed along the way (you ascertain which other bands will be playing at Q, per their inquiry, and you get back to them within the agreed timeframe),

then that's not communicating disinterest. And a few months in, yeah, take turns initiating.
posted by tel3path at 12:31 PM on February 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I vote for "typical and annoying." I find this is a habit that otherwise Enlightened Modern Women fall into and it can be grating. I don't want figuring out what you want to be like pulling teeth. And always being the one to initiate contact, suggest activities, etc., means that you're constantly the one putting yourself out there... if the concert or the movie or the restaurant sucks, it's on you.

I get not having strong preferences, I tend to be pretty easygoing in the same way, but I think it would really pay off if you forced yourself to initiate with some suggestions. Everyone likes to know that they're dating someone who's interested in doing stuff with them, even dudes.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 12:39 PM on February 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm pretty shy in general, I'm not great at initiating social occasions of any sort to be honest, even with people who are just friends unless they're my closest friends that I've known for years and years.

I think this is where I'd focus my attention, because it sounds like you already want to get better at initiating. I wish I knew how to help you do that, because I'm trying to figure it out myself and haven't made tons of progress so far.

Anyway, I think you're on the money about insecurity being the root issue-- letting others choose the activity, and dropping hints that you'd like to be invited out, but not just saying so directly, both sound super familiar. Others have suggested saying various versions of "I want to see you," which is the message I think you want to send but are afraid to. cairdeas' suggested phrasing sounded good to me, though. I think in the long run the solution for you is to get enough practice saying "I want to see you" in various ways so that you're no longer afraid of the worst-case scenario. This is hard because sometimes people don't want to do the thing you suggested, or they're busy, or they miss your message, or maybe your boyfriend actually doesn't love hanging out at your place so much. But eventually you'll discover that, not always, but enough of the time, with enough people, you'll get what you want when you ask, and that it hardly ever makes people hate you forever and never want to see you again. (This is what I hear, anyway. Therapy might give you a good place to talk it over and strategize.)
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 12:45 PM on February 26, 2012

In my experience a lot of women like to leave some initiative to the guy. For whatever reason.
If you want to stay within that cultural template I think that doesn't mean you need to wait passively what will happen.
You can still get in touch with a neutral pretext. Like, as you said, for a neutral outing. Or just to talk and catch up how things are going.
That gives the guy some data points about your potential interest as well. And he can take the initiative to take it into "ostensible dating" territory.

Of course taking more initiative brings the risk that you show your hand when the other person is not so interested after all. But risk goes imo with the dating territory.

If you don't want to stay within that cultural template you can of course ostensibly take the initiative. Ask him on a date.
That might backfire with some guys but then there other, introverted types, who might be relieved....
posted by joost de vries at 12:58 PM on February 26, 2012

As a girl, I often worry about being too forward. I worry that if I'm too forward, the guy will a) think I'm too forward and get scared or b) just say yes because I asked. So I try to wait until we've had a 2nd date to initiate. But when I do initiate it's pretty simple -- like "hey, do you feel like getting drinks tonight?"

Now from a few months in perspective: I think I probably initiate more than my boyfriend does. But he makes it clear that he wants to spend time together and misses me when we're apart (even when he sucks at texting back lol). So I don't worry about his lack of ideas, because he's usually down for whatever. So I think you're more on that end of things -- if you don't want to initiate, just make it clear that you like spending time with the guy. But also, I think I just think of things I want to do and I'd like my bf to be my activity partner for. Like we were talking the other day and I thought "hey, I haven't been to a museum forever." So I said so and asked and he was like "I've been wanting to go to a museum ever since I moved here." So I'd say rather than worrying about specific activities, just think what you want to do and ask if they'd like to come along.

Generally if you're scared to initiate, I think this is a good phrasing: "Hey, I'm in the mood to do [activity X], would you want to come too?"
posted by DoubleLune at 4:06 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

So one of my exes, when we were first dating, would sometimes call me up and say "Hey, you should take me out on a date this weekend. Find something cool for us to do — whatever you pick will be okay with me."

And then we could still do the Traditional Gender Roles thing — we'd get as dressed up as our lazy mid-20s selves ever did, and I'd come by in my car and pick her up and take her to Dinner And An X for some value of X. But there wasn't all the anxiety for me about "Does she want to see me?" and "Is she rejecting my taste in movies or is she rejecting me?" and all that. I knew she was interested in hanging out, and so I could just relax and take the date planning as sort of a fun challenge. And I think for her it was anxiety-reducing too — she didn't have to wait around for me to call, she could just ask for what she wanted, even if what she wanted was a date where someone else does all the planning.

You say you're not picky about plans; and you say you're worried that if you pick a plan he doesn't like you'll end up imposing on him. Why not just be like "Hey, boy-I'm-dating — I wanna see you this weekend. Can you figure out something cool for us to do?"
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:26 PM on February 26, 2012

1.) Do you actually *enjoy* the dynamic of your date/partner being the bigger initiator in the relationship? If you do, then embrace it. It's a valid interpersonal relationship dynamic. Some women have no interest in pursuing men, especially at the beginning of a relationship.

I am also one of those women, and it has never come back to bite me. In fact, I got much crappier results when I used to be the pursuer. I attracted passive men who often weren't very interested in me. I'd assure myself it was just because they were "shy" until BAM! they found a woman they liked better, and had no problem asking out.

2.) Men who like you to take the lead are sometimes passive. Do you like passive men? Also, MUCH of the time it means that person is not as interested in you as you would like. Other times guys who leave you hanging if you're not the 50% initiator are trying to establish a dynamic wherein they are not going to function as your protector or provider. You'll be paying for your own dinner, never giving up work to raise a family, and be expected to row your own boat in stormy seas when they want to go off and do their own thing. This dynamic wouldn't work for me. Would it work for you?

And as far as your insecurity goes... it's a much better thing for an insecure woman who prefers a nominally take-charge guy to let him actually take charge, sit back and evaluate whether or not you like him and the way he treats you. It's the smart thing to do. You get to remain objective and in charge of whether he gets to be in your life or not. If you're this kind of woman, forcing yourself to be more of an aggressor than you actually want to be will not only set up a dynamic *you* don't want, but one he probably doesn't want either.

There's such a thing as an egalitarian relationship where the gender norms are basically preserved and everyone is empowered and feels happy. Don't force yourself into a state of confusion just because our culture is full of messages to the contrary. Feminism=freedom, not trying to go against who you are and what you want for some modern ideal upon which nobody can agree anyway.

*NOTE* The OP was really specific in her follow-up post above about her desire that this thread not getting derailed regarding gender norm arguments. Please listen to her.
posted by devymetal at 5:08 PM on February 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

Just a thought about being forward:

You should never have to worry about being too forward. If you were too forward for a guy, he wasn't right for you anyway, and you saved yourself the trouble of figuring that out down the road.

Sometimes I think we try so hard to preserve the feelings of others that we forget how to not take things too seriously. Or are too inflexible to leave things to the other.

All I'm saying is, do what you want, and don't worry about how it'll be received - if one simple thing like that torpedoes a relationship, chances are pretty good it wasn't bound to succeed anyway.
posted by Strudel at 7:19 PM on February 26, 2012

Oh yeah, and if you like a guy, respond to the things he does that you like! Smiles, words of encouragement, thanks, kisses etc. provide all the positive encouragement he needs without you having to go out on a limb. If you give these signals of approval to a guy, and he likes you also, he certainly will not forget you exist if you don't ask HIM out for dates.

If he's doing things you don't like obviously that is a whole different ball of wax.
posted by devymetal at 9:59 PM on February 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whether that kind of passivity is seen as annoying is going to depend on the person you are dating. I personally find that annoying whether it comes from a friend or someone I'm romantically seeing...but it's also annoying when someone wants to always make the plans/do what they want to do. Both of those extremes signify to me that we are incompatible in some way. So I'm a big fan of balance, and luckily so is my boyfriend, but that's anecdotally us.

tldr: "I like doing almost anything but find it hard to initiate. That doesn't mean I don't want to do things! Are you okay with this or can I work on it somehow with you?"

so much yes on this.
posted by sm1tten at 6:28 AM on February 27, 2012

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