She wants to be EXCLUSIVE? What a weirdo!
April 15, 2012 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I feel like a freak for wanting a long-term relationship.

Brooklyn, early 20s, female. Is there any way to make it explicit FROM THE START that I am not looking for my 14th casual hookup, but for an actual boyfriend, without making the guys run for the hills before even giving me a shot? Because I fear that I will come off as a crazed husband hunter, when all I really want is to have someone to hang out with a lot and say 'I love you' to.

I feel like it's this weird kinky perversion to want to, like, date exclusively and get married and have kids in this city. Like it's more normal to be in a bunch of casual open relationships than it is to actually want to fall in love with someone. And I can't figure out how to assert my desire for a real relationship without seeming... presumptuous. Like, I don't want to tell a first date "I'm looking for something serious," because I barely know him and maybe I don't want something serious with HIM, but he'll think I am latching onto him like a crazy barnacle and will poke holes in his condoms...

Well you get the picture. How do I start having real relationships again?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

You are not a freak, and you know it. I think the best you can do is put this information out there in as lighthearted (but clear) a manner as possible.

If you're online and filtering ads, I would cautiously suggest older guys -- not too much older, late 20s-early 30s -- old enough to feel like settling down, but not so much older that their interest in a woman your age is a red flag.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:44 AM on April 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

You are entitled to ask for what you want. Others might not be into that. They have the same entitlement. Stand fast for what you want.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:53 AM on April 15, 2012 [16 favorites]

I would simply suggest that you stop "looking for a relationship" and start "living life" (meaning: doing things you like to do, having fun, learning, traveling, whatever floats your boat). I would bet good money that the relationship you are looking for will result from your being the person you want to be.
posted by HuronBob at 10:57 AM on April 15, 2012 [22 favorites]

Well, you can say things like, "I don't do casual relationships well." or "Casual relationships never turn out well for me." IMHO, it's the truth, and it doesn't scream "My clock is ticking and I want a man and a baby last week!"

Seconding the slightly older man thing. But I'm biased because I married one. :)
posted by Val_E_Yum at 11:01 AM on April 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you're online, I would suggest the following things:

- If there's the option to put what you're looking for (which, if I remember correctly, PlentyofFish did when I used it), put "long-term". Don't pick any other options unless you want to open those possibilities.
- Keep the rest of your profile as normal, explaining your awesome self. No need to reiterate what you're looking for, in my opinion, you've already stated that.
- Next, be merciless about filtering people. Get a couple of messages back and forth before meeting. Depending on your personality, more messages to get a picture of the person might be better. Only meet people you're interested in. Don't meet anyone out of pity, and trust your instincts.
- Be patient and don't give up. You may have to meet a bunch of guys of varying qualities (slimebags, decent guys with different ideas of relationship levels, etc.) before you find one that's worth it.

If you're not online and you don't have the simplicity of a tag, then Val_E_Yum and HuronBob's ideas are great.

YMMV, but it worked for me.
posted by Paper rabies at 11:03 AM on April 15, 2012

You are not a freak. However, it's really hard for someone to look at a profile on a dating site and make a decision about wanting to pursue a long-term relationship with someone before actually hanging out/spending time with them. This is one of the downsides of online dating (it eliminates a bunch of the process of 'getting to know you' so the initial contact is further along in the relationship process than just like...meeting someone at a bar or being introduced by a friend).

I think this is more about being picky about the kinds of messages you respond to, and setting expectations with your actions when out with new people.

That said (and this is pure anecdote), when I was single and slutting around (in the sex-positive way of course), I found that many of those who put 'im not looking for a casual hookup' in their profiles tended to actually mean "i don't like creepers, but if you're a nice honest guy, I'm down". Not that there's anything wrong with that. Many may take it as a challenge.
posted by softlord at 11:03 AM on April 15, 2012

New York in your 20s is hard for this. I think HuronBob is on to something. I would also suggest, generally, more dating, less sex. Hang out with your romantic interests and don't sleep with them for a while. If you don't want a hookup, don't hook up; if something peters out and doesn't last, then it's "we went on some dates and it didn't work out," not, "it was just another meaningless hookup."

Mainly, I want to say that I know what you mean about wanting to just be involved with someone feeling like a kink in New York in your post-college years. There's a real culture of treating people as disposable parts that you trade up when you can. But it's not as pervasive as it feels and there are many guys who are equally disillusioned with all that.

You may need to reassess who you are spending most of your time with.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 11:03 AM on April 15, 2012 [17 favorites]

Yes, just tell them. But in a way that shows you know who you are and what you want in life, not 'omg, I am going to be alone forever if no one marries meeeee!'. I straight up told my SO that I was interested in a monogamous relationship with marriage on the table. He was absolutely fine with it. If he wasn't, there would have been no reason for me to waste my time dating him. (btw, we aren't married, and I am great with that. I just wanted someone who would be open to exploring that option.)

Although I am older and my pool of datable men are in a different life stage, so I agree you might want to go a bit older than early 20s.
posted by Vaike at 11:04 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

From what I've found, relationships are not predictable. By that, I mean that you never know who you'll end up in a relationship with. My suggestion is that you form non-romantic friendships with men. That way, you can discover if there's a spark there, and avoid the complications of a casual relationship.

As someone who has actively avoided serious relationships, I would run if someone on the first date told me that they were looking for a commitment. This is not because I think the guy is a freak, but because I know that I have completely different goals and I don't want to waste someone's time. But the caveat here is that I'd much rather have someone tell me point blank what they're looking for. It saves a lot of grief and frustration for both parties.
posted by oxfordcomma at 11:04 AM on April 15, 2012

You don't give us details about how you're finding dates, e.g. whether you're using online dating. I'm going to assume you're on OKCupid, since you're single, actively dating, in your early 20s, and living in Brooklyn. So, check the thing that says "looking for long-term dating." Don't check "short-term dating," and of course don't check "casual sex." Don't make a big deal about it. Avoid mentioning marriage. It is fine and extremely common to explicitly say in your profile that you have no interest in "casual" sex/dating.

If you are literally wondering whether it's unusual to be looking for a long-term relationship (I can't tell whether that's your real question or whether you're being facetious and are trying to get at something else), just do a search for people who are looking for "long-term dating." You can do a search of women (to check out your competition) or of men (to find people you're compatible with). You will be able to find endless results, even if you strictly limit the other variables (e.g. only people who've signed on in the past day, only people who are a specific age, etc.). Therefore, it isn't unusual. But I have a feeling you knew that already.

I disagree with the stock advice to "Stop looking!" Life isn't a romantic comedy where you can count on everything to fall into place after a certain amount of time. If you want something, go get it.
posted by John Cohen at 11:05 AM on April 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Agree that you should put what you're looking for out there, whether it's on an online dating profile, or with friends who are looking to fix you up.

Another point is not to confuse the norm with the normative. It's true that a lot of people in your age group are currently preferring to date around and hook up with lots of people rather than to pursue longer-term relationships. So, yeah, you are not in the majority with what you want. But that doesn't make you "a freak!" It just means you're fishing in a slightly smaller pool.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:08 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I feel like it's this weird kinky perversion to want to, like, date exclusively and get married and have kids in this city.

This is NYC, baby; what better city in which to embrace your kinky perversions? If you're not looking for casual relationships, don't engage in them- Mr. First Date wants to go back to his place? Mr. Last Weekend's Date is texting you at 11 p.m. to come over? Hmph, sorry, can't. If he's not interested in more than that, well then, he's gone, bye, next. Getting involved in activities where you can meet people with common interests (religious groups, co-ed sports teams, groups) is good advice; I think it's possible online dating will yield more guys looking for a more casual connection. After that, all you can do is have patience- not every guy you go out with is going to be wanting a relationship with you, and surely you don't want a relationship with every guy you meet, either.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:09 AM on April 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, do you have connections with guys outside of the city? I know plenty of girls who ended up with someone they went to high school with, someone they went to college with, someone they used to work with who doesn't live in NYC anymore.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:12 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's natural to feel this way. But please keep in mind that what you want is what most people want and what most people eventually get.
posted by escabeche at 11:13 AM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a committed but generally relationship-adverse guy in Brooklyn. My experience here has been less that people here don't want relationships at all, and more that they want longer trial periods. I've been seeing my girlfriend since October, but it wasn't until February that we started using the "boyfriend/girlfriend" terms. (By comparison, I was cohabiting within that timespan in my last two relationships.)

Even when I was actively seeking out casual hookups, I still had an eye towards long-term relationships; I just wanted to make sure that anyone I got involved with was in no more of a hurry than I was. I'm sure there are plenty of guys out there -- maybe even some you had dismissed as hookups -- that are interested in committing to long term relationships when they are ready.
posted by modernserf at 11:24 AM on April 15, 2012 [9 favorites]

Who are you going on dates with? If you're focusing on the male equivalent of the manic pixie dream girl (carefree adventurous charismatic artist type super into his big social circle) then you'll have less luck. Look for the guys who seem stable and nice and maybe not as sparkly and manic.
posted by yarly at 11:30 AM on April 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Because I fear that I will come off as a crazed husband hunter, when all I really want is to have someone to hang out with a lot and say 'I love you' to.

You're not a weirdo because you want a relationship. And, surprise, there are also lots of guys who are your age who want to be in a long term relationship as well, even in New York City. Dating, however, is difficult. You should tell your dates, early, that you want something serious and you should stick to your boundaries. Don't hookup with the plan that it will lead to a relationship (even thought it might). Carry yourself, and approach every date, with the perspective that this might be long term. And if the guy is weirded out by that vibe, that is their problem, not yours. You're worth getting into a relationship that you want.

But, even then, dating isn't easy and you'll end up with a lot of false starts. That's completely normal! But you can make it - just hang in there and know that what you want isn't weird, nor silly, nor ridiculous.
posted by Stynxno at 11:35 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If someone told me they were looking for a serious relationship early on, I'd interpret that in exactly the way you want guys to, and not in the way you'd fear they would. No crazy husband hunting connotations or anything like that, and I'd look at it as a good thing, because that's my mindset, too. (Conversely, if someone told me they weren't looking for anything serious, I wouldn't assume they were interested in having something casual WITH ME.)

I'm 32, though, and I live in the suburbs.

If a dude DOES run for the hills when you bring this up, he's probably doing you a favor.

I'd recommend pursuing guys you know through your social circle, or asking guys about their experience with OkCupid when you're out with them if you meet them online, or if they're seeing other people at the moment. These are questions you can totally ask to feel someone out for what their approach is to relationships, and you could even respond with "I'm seeing other people, too, but I'm looking for someone with long-term potential." If someone said something like that to me, I'd probably have a strong urge to raise my game.
posted by alphanerd at 11:52 AM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't latch on then, just be clear about your goals and don't let them boss you around. Be a bit aloof. Let them bolt if they're going to bolt. There isn't anything you can do to change what someone else wants, so there's nothing there for you if all they want is something casual.

Concerning goals: you mention regular hanging out, exclusive boyfriend, marriage and babies all interchangeably in your question. These are very different things. Figure out which you actually want and focus on people who share those wants.

Your odds will increase yearly, as your cohort ages and priorities shift.
posted by ead at 12:22 PM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you ought to broaden your horizons a bit -- get out of your social circle (for dating purposes at least) if it is teaching you that casual relationships are the rule for men in New York.

The reality is that New York is highly traditional when it comes to educated men and relationships. You don't need to pre-qualify men's appetite for relationship, because as long as you're not adversely selecting your dating pool, the vast majority of men are already extremely biased in that direction.

In nearly 15 years here, acquainted with industries which employ the vast majority of educated men (media, finance, law, medicine), only a handful I've gotten to know well enough to know their relationship status were not married or in relationships leading to marriage ... and most of those were either very young or very recently divorced.

If online is your thing, focus on men with professional jobs in Manhattan, 25 or older. Offline, maybe start going to Manhattan young alumni events for your college? There's a very high correlation between those events and single-and-looking.
posted by MattD at 12:22 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're not a freak for wanting a long term relationship, even in Brooklyn.

My thought is to raise these issues when you feel like you can see yourself that way with the guy you're dating. Before then, don't hook up with him.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:34 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

the only way for you to know if a guy wants to be your long term boy friend is to date him, and if two or three years down the road he's still dating you, well, then he did.

you should change the order that you filter guys: first find men who you like and who like you, then once you know there's some mutual attraction you can filter the guys who are not ready to commit to anything.

but, it's really a silly game to squeeze out some statement of commitment by anyone you date. ultimately we're all free people who could leave at any time. so what do you really gain by making a guy say he wants a long term girl friend or else you won't see him any more?
posted by cupcake1337 at 1:00 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had a similar issue in my recent forays into dating, and what I found was that it's important to know how to couch it. What I do now, after a few dates - basically once I know I like them and want to get to know them better in that way - is I find a way to steer the conversation towards general talk about relationships and then I mention that ultimately the ideal progression for me is to wind up in something long-term and monogamous. Then I specify that I'm not sizing people up for that, nor am I in a rush to get to that, but that I've been in situations where those things were not options for the person I was dating (regardless of how much they liked me) and would like to avoid going through that again.

If they've done any dating at all then they'll probably understand.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 1:35 PM on April 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

The first three dates are normal dates. But whenever it happens that you're making out and otherwise getting closer to actually having sex, stop him and say: "Hi, listen, we can mess around and do other stuff, but I can't have sex with you unless we're like, in an exclusive relationship. It just has a really strong emotional bonding effect on me, so, haha sorry! Anyway, back to making out..." Works every time (anecdotally)

Sorry the world isn't intuitive about delivering what you want, it turns out we have to fight and strive to find the object of our desires. Cowgirl-up and don't be afraid of asking for what you want from potential partners. You'll know it's perfect when they have less than no problem with proceeding exclusively!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:47 PM on April 15, 2012 [8 favorites]

1. I think you should be honest about what you're looking for.

  • If you're finding dates online then I would state on your profile that you are only interested in developing a long-term relationship with the right person.
  • If your friends are setting you up on dates tell them that you would like to be set-up with guys that are looking for a long-term relationship.
  • If you're meeting guys at the bar, I would recomend looking elsewhere.

    2. Personally I've had magnificent personal success with the advice that HuronBob gives: I would simply suggest that you stop "looking for a relationship" and start "living life"(...)I would bet good money that the relationship you are looking for will result from your being the person you want to be.

    I met my partner two years ago in NYC at an organization we were both volunteering at. I was 23 and he was 27. We've been together ever since. So my advice to people who want to find someone they can have an LTR with is so surround yourself with the type of person that you would want to have that relationship with. A good friend of mine met her fiance when she was in her early twenties at a coed kickball league in. Another friend of mine met his girlfriend at a Marxist reading group.

  • posted by OsoMeaty at 2:25 PM on April 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

    Part of this is just your age. I also didn't really want casual hookups when I was your age and that seemed to be what a lot (but not all!!) guys were into. I understand your fear of chasing guys off, but I think you can communicate what you want without coming off like OMG WANT HUSBAND NOW.

    One way to avoid casual hookups is to, well, not have casual hookups. Once it starts looking like a dude wants to get in bed with you, you can say something like, "I really don't want to have sex with someone until were in an exclusive committed relationship." That sort of makes the point that "hey, you know, I don't really want to have casual sex and I'm looking for something longer term" without seeming like you're saying that you want to get married right this minute.
    posted by bananafish at 4:44 PM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

    I would simply suggest that you stop "looking for a relationship" and start "living life" (meaning: doing things you like to do, having fun, learning, traveling, whatever floats your boat). I would bet good money that the relationship you are looking for will result from your being the person you want to be.

    I don't buy this- I'm constantly going out, having fun, taking classes, etc, and I've been single for the past three years; and on the other hand, two of the three engaged couples I know met via online dating websites, on which they were (obviously) 'looking for a relationship'. What you're saying has some truth to it, but 'living life' won't magically The Secret a boyfriend into anyone's life.
    posted by showbiz_liz at 7:03 PM on April 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

    Go slightly older. Look to meet guys with shared interests (rather than dating for dating). Understand that it's a good thing if they freak out and disappear once they understand you want a relationship - hard to handle, but it's a good thing, you want to weed out these guys, it makes sense there will be lots of them and few of the ones you actually should be dating.
    posted by mleigh at 7:34 PM on April 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

    Your concern is valid and you are right to make it clear (not in a spooky way) as soon as you can, i.e. the first date.
    That's what I _should_ have done. I find myself 2 months down a relationship with a girl I truly like. We have a good time and I think she likes me too, but I'm a few steps ahead of her, and I now panic at the idea that she may not necessarily see things as seriously as I do. And since I don't want to drive her away and am emotionally attached, anxiety builds up.
    Don't do what I did, lay things on the table as soon as you can, before you find yourself entangled in feelings, vulnerable.
    posted by peterf12 at 8:16 PM on April 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

    Early 20s are the worst possible time to be looking for an LTR. I live in Chicago, graduated from college early and had my first full-time job by 21, and I had the toughest time finding men my age who wanted an LTR and/or had their stuff together. I commiserate. After yet another dude told me that he wasn't looking for anything serious, I added a line to my OKC profile in the "message me if..." section: "You're interested in a long-term relationship." That's it. Not negative, not needy. Just putting it out there. I also changed my "looking for" on OKC to exclusively say "long-term dating." You need to own your desire for something long-term. Just as people who are looking for something casual can be upfront about that desire, you can be upfront about yours.

    mleigh is totally right: look for men who are slightly older. I dated a 23 year-old when I was 19 and I'm 25 and dating a 31 year-old now.
    posted by anotheraccount at 7:31 AM on April 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

    Definitely join co-ed activities where the male:female ratio is in your favor. One of the major reasons I joined my school's cycling team and outdoors clubs was to meet the kinds of guys I'm really attracted to: geeky, biglaw-bound Jewish guys with thick Bronx accents.
    posted by lotusmish at 8:09 AM on April 28, 2012

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